A round of cheers goes up in the meeting room at the Salvation Army in White Plains as Cadet Luz Valdes reads out the daily assignments. Today, Jimmy, a client of The Guidance Center of Westchester, is assigned to ring the bell outside The Christmas Tree Shoppe, a prime location for donations. There are few murmurs of “lucky,” and Jimmy smiles as he says, “They always give me a chair.”
For Jimmy, along with other clients of TGCW’s Personalized Recovery-Orientated Service (PROS) program, working as a bell ringer for The Salvation Army is an integral part of their treatment plan. “It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you’re out doing good for others,” says Dwayne Moore, the counselor who helps coordinate the efforts between the two agencies.
Mr. Moore sees how enthusiastic the clients are about working, and there is a real sense of camaraderie in the room as the bell ringers wait to get a ride to their location for the day. Mr. Moore says that family members also notice a positive change. “The mother of one of our clients called to tell me how much this work means to her son. It gives him a meaningful role to play and a reason to get out. It’s great.”
Lori, another client, worked as a bell ringer last year and returned this year because it makes her happy, and that’s evident by the smile on her face as she greets shoppers with “Happy Holidays!” as they enter Bloomingdale’s. Jimmy is known to belt out a few lyrics to “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” for his donors. As Chris rings his bell, he keeps track of who is more likely to donate (men or women?). And Roberto not only rings the bell, but also opens the door to help shoppers get in to the store at his location.
“It’s a great collaboration and we’re happy to have our clients out spreading holiday cheer while helping themselves,” says Laurice Whitfield, director of PROS. “Some of our people have even been asked to come back to help the Salvation Army with other projects.”
The Guidance Center of Westchester’s PROS Program is a new strength-based model for helping individuals with serious mental illness to find a path to recovery. Participants are helped every step of the way as they identify personal goals and choose which steps to take to meet those goals. Participants attend classes and engage in social activities to help learn the skills needed to integrate into the community. Contact us to learn more about PROS.