Community Programs is, by its very nature, a place for Windhorse clients and staff to connect, learn, and celebrate together. When COVID-19 hit our hometown of Boulder in early March, and we all dispersed to our homes to protect our physical health and that of those around us, Community Programs was called to re-invent itself. In the words of Laura Hale, Peer Support Specialist, facilitators and participants had to “find structure out of ether.” Connecting in person was no longer an option, yet the need to connect was of utmost importance. Many of our community members found the initial isolation and stay-at-home orders overwhelming and downright frightening. So, with the help of Zoom, and the flexibility and persistence of our staff and clients, Community Programs became virtual pretty much overnight. We even found that a virtual format resulted in more community participation and an expansion of programming. Clients and staff dropped into Dinner Club, Yoga, or the Stress Management Class from the comfort of their own home and, in the words of Alicia Mandel in the following podcast, there was still connection with one another on the “spiritual and emotional level”, even when a physical connection was absent.
Fast forward two months to the current podcast, in which we drop in on a conversation amongst those that have been living this reality: JoAnn Dorio Burton (Community Programs Administrator), Joe Calcagno (Peer Support Specialist), Alicia Mandel (Client), and Laura Hale (Peer Support Specialist). From losing connection to community, employment, and a sense of safety, these resourceful and resilient people discuss the journey from shock to adaptation to—in the words of Joe Calcagno—transformation during this time. Through anecdote and honest reflection, they paint a picture of how this time has been challenging yet enlightening. They reflect upon how they get through each day and how each has worked with their thoughts and utilized their coping skills ‘tool box’—not only to empower themselves but to support the greater Community Programs community.
It is easy to get lost, overwhelmed, and siloed while isolating. However, this podcast illustrates the profound human potential to overcome atrophy simply by tuning in, daring to connect, and—in the words of Laura Hale—”not wasting precious peace of mind” by focusing on things outside our control. As Joe Calcagno puts it, “this wasn’t a vacation I necessarily wanted to go on . . . but all you ever want to do is try to get better.”
Have a listen and take care of yourselves,
Alicia Mandel is from Asheville, North Carolina and I’ve been with Windhorse for five years now. I live with my fiance and all of our wonderful animals including our two dogs, a bearded dragon and some snakes. During my free time I enjoy painting, listening to music, gardening and photography.
JoAnn Dorio-Burton has over 30 years experience supporting people with mental health challenges. Her specialty is in Employment Services and Recovery Education. She has several papers and editorials published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and has presented at many national conferences. She considers herself to be an educator, trainer, counselor, coach and advocate. JoAnn is passionate about her work and tries to infuse her sense of humor in everything she does.
Joe Calgano is a Windhorse Community Services community member. He is a peer support specialist at Windhorse and was previously a Peer Support Specialist at Mental Health Partners.
Laura Hale is a long time member of the Windhorse Community. She is currently a Peer Support Specialist at Windhorse.