Growing Food and Minds at NorthStar Clubhouse

By Deborah Katz

In the kitchen at NorthStar Clubhouse, 5600 NE Glisan St., the smells are amazing and the mood is upbeat as Nutrition and Wellness staff member Cosmo Disori works with clubhouse members to prepare a healthy lunch: vegetarian burritos and a full salad bar with fruit and cilantro. Music plays on the radio and people socialize while working. 

“We grew this in our garden,” member Dee Dee M. says, gesturing proudly at some bountiful lettuce and tomatoes. NorthStar’s large garden currently has 26 different thriving vegetables, fruits and herbs. Members built the garden from the ground up.

NorthStar Clubhouse is a unique, evidence-based, mental wellness community with a non-clinical program. Instead of therapy, members get well by participating in all aspects of running this small nonprofit, which increases their self-confidence and builds skills. Members also combat isolation and gain vital peer support and social connection at NorthStar. Supportive assistance is available for members who want to obtain employment, go back to school or pursue their goals and dreams. 

Dee Dee, who’s been a NorthStar member for about eight years, said, “The greatest impact NorthStar has had on me is the friendships I’ve made here.  Also, I lose my temper a lot less and I have more patience when people get upset with me about my memory loss and disabilities.” 

Disori added, “What makes NorthStar so special is that we focus on people’s strengths, whereas clinical programs look at people’s symptoms and problems. It’s wonderful to see people wanting to be a part of something, getting things done and growing together. It’s an encouraging thing to witness and be a part of.”

Member Mike S. says, “NorthStar has given me the confidence to establish and enforce boundaries, something I struggled with before. Now I can say ‘no’ to things when I need to, which allows me to better focus my energy on the things I’m passionate about.”

Mental health clubhouses are an award-winning psychosocial rehabilitation model. They revolve around “Work of the Day” meetings, where tasks are discussed and members sign up to do them. These daily meetings are held in person and on Zoom to accommodate those who are unable to attend in person. In addition to providing structure and meaningful work, NorthStar has holiday celebrations on the holiday itself, to support its members who might otherwise be isolated. The club also has regular social events, which are held in-house, on Zoom and in the community.

Tours are available Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm by scheduling in advance at 971.271.7273. 

Those interested in joining the clubhouse must be 18 years old or older, live with a mental health diagnosis and live in the Portland metro area. The first step toward membership is to sign up for NorthStar’s weekly orientation by calling the number above. Providers can also submit referrals at northstarclubhouse.org.

Photo of member Dee Dee M. in front of corn, squash and beans by Cosmo Disori.

Growing Food and Minds at NorthStar Clubhouse

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