WHY we do what we do …

A couple of weeks ago, our board president and I were giving a tour of Woodley House to two people who wanted to learn a little more about our programs and what we do. After visiting Valenti House (our flagship group home), we stopped by Crossing Place (our short-term crisis home). We were just about to leave when a young woman came down the stairs. She must have just come out of the shower as her hair was still very wet. She approached us and zeroed in on Isabel, our board president, forming an immediate connection. She asked if Isabel were part of Woodley House and learning that she was head of our Board of Trustees, the girl took a deep breath and started to tell her story.

A graduate of Smith College, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had recently gone through a very difficult period. She had been at Crossing Place for nearly a week and felt immeasurably better … still fairly fragile, but stable and hopeful. She was effusive in her appreciation of her stay at Crossing Place … the staff, welcoming environment and security of knowing that she was being looked after. She was SO articulate, in fact, that if it weren’t so obviously unrehearsed and unexpected, it could almost be seen as the perfect unsolicited testimonial … a true gift to a development director!

We wished her well and went on our way — but thinking back, it hit me that this was why we are here — really making a difference in people’s lives. As development director, I’m busy trying to raise funds through donations, grants and events like our Annual Movie Benefit. Sometimes you can get lost in the day to day … but in this one 10 minute encounter, I could see exactly WHY we do what we do. We provided that special space for someone in great need to regroup, become stable and start anew. Without us, who knows how she might have fared. We were there when it mattered.

There are so many great causes out there, but not all can truly step in and provide such a meaningful and perhaps life-changing respite. So thank you to all our supporters who make Woodley House possible for so many who need us.

 

CHANGE DIRECTION with WOODLEY HOUSE!

Woodley House is proud to be a Founding Partner of the new, national initiative, CHANGE DIRECTION that seeks to change the conversation about mental illness and mental health in America. As part of the collective effort , Woodley House joins 50 other campaign partners with our pledge to reach out to people to recognize the FIVE SIGNS OF SUFFERING that indicate that someone may be in emotional distress and needs help. They are:

  • Not feeling like yourself
  • Feeling agitated
  • Becoming withdrawn or isolated from others
  •  Not taking care of yourself (including poor sleep, diet, hygiene and risky behaviors)
  • Feeling totally hopeless and overwhelmed

CHANGE DIRECTION was initiated by Give An Hour, a nonprofit started by the dynamic psychologist Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD ten years ago to recruit therapists to ‘give an hour’ of therapy to a veteran in need. She realized that red tape and bureaucracy could deter someone from reaching out for help and wanted to do something to help. Give An Hour offers free mental health services to veterans and more than 7,000 therapists are participating in this incredible effort nation-wide.

One undeniable fact that surfaced over the past 10 years was the paralyzing affect of stigma on accessing mental health care.  No one spoke about mental illness or if they did, it was in whispered terms. Years ago, it was the same thing with cancer. People didn’t talk about it … in fact, sometimes it was known as the ‘c-word’!  And it was the same with HIV/AIDS. But we got over the reluctance to talk about it and started addressing the issues in real terms … and positive changes started to happen.

It’s now that time for mental illness. We have to begin the conversation so that people aren’t afraid to disclose that they have experienced depression, anxiety or bi-polar disease for fear of what people might say.  As the First Lady, Michelle Obama remarked at the launch of CHANGE DIRECTION on March 4th, “Mental health is just as vital as our physical health, so it’s time that we start treating it that way“.

The campaign was launched at the Newseum on March 4, 2015 with a series of panels on aspects of mental health, including the influence of mental illness on corporate America, importance of community service, and the thoughts of mental health experts from the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers. There were also moving and inspiring personal stories and a performance of “Lighthouse” by G.R.L.

A great beginning to an impressive campaign that Woodley House is proud to join.  Please see www.changedirection.org to find out more about this initiative … and start the conversation!

 

Woodley House presents Universal Pictures’ ‘UNBROKEN’ for our 18th Annual Movie Benefit!

We are delighted to announce that our 18th Annual Woodley House Movie Benefit will present Universal Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ Washington, DC premiere of ‘UNBROKEN’, directed by Angelina Jolie.  Based on the book of the same name by Washingtonian Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit), this is the true story of Louis Zamperini … a world-class runner at USC and member of the US Olympic team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics who joined the military and served as a bombardier in the South Pacific during World War II. A tale of survival, resilience and redemption, Louis endured living on a raft in the middle of the ocean after being shot down by enemy aircraft, only to be ‘rescued’ by the Japanese and sent to a prison camp to experience even greater challenges … but he survived. He was a remarkable man and through almost overwhelming adversity, he remained ‘unbroken’. Louis died this past summer at the age of 97.

This should be a tremendous film and we are so proud to be presenting its premiere on Wednesday, December 17th at the AMC Loews Uptown Theater (it will open nationwide on Christmas Day).  A special pre-screening reception will be held at Spices across from the theater, starting at 5:30 pm, with the screening to begin at 7:30 pm. The Movie Benefit is Woodley House’s one major fundraiser of the year and raises significant funds that go directly to our programs to help local residents with mental health problems work toward recovery and greater independence.

Please click here to purchase tickets or make a donation.  For any questions, please contact Linda Meixner at Woodley House (lmeixner@woodleyhouse.org;  202-506-3102).

We so hope you will join us for this special event … the perfect way to start the holiday season!

Please join us..   REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED

Woodley House survives ‘snow days’!

 

martinsnow According to those emerging daffodil tips in our gardens, spring will be here soon (we hope) but before we totally leave the ice, snow and sleet behind, we want to share with you how mental health residential programs like Woodley House manage on those’ snow emergency days’ when everyone is urged to stay home.   Washington has had more than our share this year, forcing many to juggle plans, reschedule meetings and work from home because it was just too dangerous to travel around the city. But for the staff at Crossing Place, Valenti House and Holly House – our crisis, transitional and longer-term group homes – staying home wasn’t an option.  Our residents, men and women working to recover from mental illness, needed to be safe, fed and properly cared for, so while most of us remained in our warm, comfortable homes, Woodley House staff either prepared to spend the night or risk the icy roads to get to work.  Everyone, both staff and residents, pitched in to make it through the many snow emergencies  … shoveling snow and de-icing steps … and we are so proud and gratified by their wonderfully positive spirit. As executive director Gary Frye remarked: “Together we form a society that elevates to care for our least fortunate.  This was certainly an ‘elevating’ winter, but we must say, we are all looking forward to spring!

17th Annual Movie Benefit — December 11, 2013!

We are delighted to announce that our 17th Annual Woodley House Movie Benefit will present Walt Disney Pictures’ Washington, DC premiere of Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks! This is the true, behind-the-scenes story of Walt Disney’s 20 year campaign to win the movie rights to the children’s classic book, ‘Mary Poppins’. The curmudgeonly author, P.L. Travers, (Emma Thompson) was extremely reluctant to let the Hollywood machine get its hands on her beloved magical nanny. Against the very persistent efforts of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), she finally relents and thus begins the real struggle of wills to see it through! This film has received rave ‘pre-reviews’ and also stars Colin Farrell, Bradley Whitford and Paul Giamatti.

The Movie Benefit is Woodley House’s one major fundraiser of the year and all funds raised go directly to our programs to help local residents with mental health problems reclaim their lives and reach their personal goals for greater independence. This event was started in 1996 by Mary Margaret and Jack Valenti who introduced the first Woodley House Movie Benefit with a special advance screening of Titanic.It was so well received that it has become an annual tradition for the past 17 years.

Acclaimed journalist Jim Lehrer will be this year’s Master of Ceremonies and he will present the Woodley House Donald A. Brown ‘Rose Award’ to Catherine P. May, MD for her leadership in the DC mental health community and dedication to ensuring quality mental healthcare for DC residents.

This annual event is the perfect way to begin the holiday season for hundreds of Washingtonians who look forward to ‘dinner and a movie’ for Woodley House each year! For further information about the event and to purchase tickets, either click on the Movie Benefit Slide on our home page or click the link below … but save Wednesday, December 11, 2013 for a wonderful event to support a great cause! If you have any questions, please contact Linda Meixner at Woodley House, 202-506-3102, or lmeixner@woodleyhouse.org.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Along with bringing us Mother’s Day, the Kentucky Derby and Memorial Day, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Woodley House has been a leader in mental health recovery in Washington, DC for over 50 years with our range of community-based mental health housing and Life Skills Training support services.  According to NAMI, one in four adults in America experiences a mental health disorder in any given year, but we rarely discuss it.  Mental Health Services is an important subject that we should embrace, not shy away from! We know that mental illness is NOT a one-size-fits-all disease, so Woodley House works with each of our residents to achieve their own personal goals. We are committed to empowering our residents .. on an individual basis .. to achieve the most productive, independent living possible for themselves.  

Mental illness is a complicated disease and while great strides have been made in its treatment, recovery is still difficult to define. Someone who is blind rarely ‘recovers’ his or her sight, but can learn coping mechanisms and techniques to live a full, healthy and independent life in the community.  So with mental health disorders … people can learn to understand their illness and integrate their own coping mechanisms to live productive, independent lives with family and friends. So in this month of Mental Health Awareness, we can explore new research on the intricacies of the brain,  the incredible new efforts on brain-mapping and the fact that organizations like Woodley House remain a trusted community resource dedicated to helping people, one life at a time.

16th Annual Movie Benefit Presented ‘Les Miserables’!

On December 12th, nearly 500 joined Woodley House for our 16th Annual Movie Benefit and a grand time was had by all!  This year we presented a very special advance screening of Universal Pictures’ Les Miserables which attracted many Washingtonians, as well as fans from as far away as Australia! We were honored to present our esteemed Donald A. Brown Rose Award to noted author (‘An Unquiet Mind”), educator and mental health advocate, Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD for her strong leadership in mental health recovery and longtime support of Woodley House.

The evening began with a buffet reception at Pulpo, a new restaurant across the street from the Uptown Theater where the movie was screened.  NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was our master of ceremonies and presented the Rose Award to Dr. Jamison. All proceeds from the event went to fund Woodley House’s programs for the mentally ill. For a write up and photos from Washington Life, go to:

http://www.washingtonlife.com/2012/12/13/life-of-the-party-les-miserables/. 

And for more photos, go to:

http://www.taricooperphotography.com/Events/Woodley-House-Les-Miserables/272

Challenge Grant from the Gwendolyn & Morris Cafritz Foundation!

We are on our way to meet our Challenge Grant from the Gwendolyn & Morris Cafritz Foundation for $20,000 with many thanks to our wonderful and generous supporters! This means that every donation to Woodley House is matched dollar for dollar! It is an amazing opportunity for us to raise desperately needed funds in this dismal economy and provide a cushion against the unknown results of the sequester. Woodley House is so very grateful for the continuing friendship and support of the Gwendolyn & Morris Cafritz Foundation truly an organization that helps its community in so many ways.  So PLEASE, donate to Woodley House today … to help us meet our Challenge Grant Match!

Woodley House Art Class Joins Creativity and Community

 

A collage made at Woodley House

On Saturday July 7, about eight Woodley House consumers joined a friend of Woodley House, Jennifer Mahalingappa, and Board member Holly Wittenberg for a delightful afternoon of arts and crafts.  This inaugural session consisted of creating the unique collages you see in the pictures.

Several of the consumers mentioned that they participated in art therapy sessions during the week. This session, in contrast, serves only to entertain and engage with each other in a communal setting.  We also had ice tea and cookies to stay cool in the terrible heat.

Special thanks to Jennifer, who organized the session and provided guidance on the project. She brought all the supplies and plans to lead the group in a beading session next month.

If you wish to donate art supplies for this program, feel free to contact Linda Meixner at 202-506-3102 or lmeixner@woodleyhouse.org.

 

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Woodley House Movie Benefit featuring ‘Les Miserables’ a great success!

On December 12th, nearly 500 joined Woodley House for our 16th Annual Movie Benefit and a grand time was had by all! This year we presented a very special advance screening of Universal Pictures’ Les Miserables which attracted many Washingtonians, as well as fans from as far away as Australia! We were honored to present our esteemed Donald A. Brown Rose Award to Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD for her strong leadership in mental health recovery and longtime support of Woodley House.

The evening began with a buffet reception at Pulpo, a new restaurant across the street from the Uptown Theater where the movie was screened. NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was our master of ceremonies and presented the Rose Award to Dr. Jamison.  All proceeds from the event went to fund Woodley House’s programs for the mentally ill. For a write up and photos from Washington Life, go to:

http://www.washingtonlife.com/2012/12/13/life-of-the-party-les-miserables/