Enchilada Fest raised $3,700 for Daybreak Clubhouse

Supporters turned out at the P.A. Club for the program that provides a lifeline for adults with mental illness.

The PA club was full of Daybreak supporters at last week's Enchilada Fest/fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burke

Many of those who turned out for the Enchilada Fest held at the P.A. Club Friday in support of the Daybreak Clubhouse expressed gratitude for its unique role in the Island community.

“It feels like it saved my son’s life,” said a mother of a Daybreak member. For the first time, she said, he had a friend.

Daybreak is a part of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), the Island’s social services umbrella organization, and provides a lifeline to the community for adults with mental illness.

The annual fundraiser was held at the P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs. Parents and members, Daybreak and MVCS staff, and folks who just wanted to show their support attended. The evening raised approximately $3,700.

Daybreak is a steppingstone, according to Megan Grennan.

After her son’s fourth hospitalization, Ms. Grennan said, he was ready to accept his illness. But he was not ready to be home, and she was not equipped to have him home. He attended Daybreak.

“Daybreak is one of the few organizations on the Island that understands mental illness and is a haven for people with mental illness,” Ms. Grennan said.

Daybreak members and staff spent the day preparing for the festivities, which included laying out a Mexican feast. There were nacho chips with fresh salsa, chicken enchiladas with red or green bean sauce, rice, refried beans, and a vanilla cake for dessert.

One might very well have thought the food had been imported from south of the border. Plates throughout the large rectangular room were scraped clean.

Lively conversations took place among the many full tables as local artist Michael Haydn played his guitar. A raffle and silent auction added to the fun, with gifts donated by many local merchants. There was a hopeful and positive mood.

Dave, a 52-year-old man, said Daybreak has been a way of coping. With scholarship money provided from Daybreak, Dave has attended watercolor classes at Featherstone. He now paints on a regular basis, and sells his works in the community. Dave donated a watercolor, a Vineyard Haven harbor and beach scene, to the event.

The Daybreak clubhouse is located in the Woodlawn marketplace in Tisbury. There are 25 members total, and 12 members attend the clubhouse on a day-to-day basis, according to Alicia Nicholson, director of Daybreak.

There is a structured day. In the morning, members work on goal plans, which may include housing and employment components. Some folks help prepare the day’s meal. At noon, members and staff enjoy a lunch together. In the afternoon, there might be trips to the beach, to the Mansion House to work out, or to the food bank to volunteer.

Daybreak teaches folks through steppingstones that “they can do things they never thought they could do,” Alicia said.

Employment, for example, can be broken down into the following components: attending employment meetings at Daybreak, applying for a job, going to the interview, receiving, and then maintaining the job.

The metaphor of steppingstones was prevalent throughout the evening.

Steppingstones inlaid with floral designs, made by Daybreak members, were one of the items in the auction.

Tom Bennett, associate executive director of MVCS, helped found Daybreak in 1978.

Daybreak, said Mr. Bennett, came about “with the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill folks from state hospitals. It was decided people had the right to live in communities close to home.” Most islanders with mental illness were living in Taunton State Hospital at the time.

Dr. Milton Mazer, founder of MVCS, hired Mr. Bennett to start Daybreak, which signifies a new day.

Those with major mental illness, Mr. Bennett said, often “lose touch with reality and feel anxious and afraid.” They find hope with Daybreak.

Rita, 56 years old, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was about 30. She has been a Daybreak member for a year. “I found it a good place to go for socialization and for growth,” she said.

The mania of bipolar makes her feel like she is bouncing off walls sometimes. Daybreak understands that, and says it is OK to be that way. Daybreak also has taught her computer skills.

The Enchiladas Fest was Rita’s idea. She grew up and learned how to cook in Texas.

Jonathan Burke is a writer and resident of Vineyard Haven. He formerly worked for Daybreak and MVCS, and was for a while a member.