Last week eleven members entered the community room with a mixture of tentativeness and excitement. The kind of mixed feelings you might get on a first date or on the first day of a new job. Our members were part of the inaugural community forum – an intentional place where staff step out from behind the metaphorical microphone and give our members the chance to speak and to be heard.
What’s the forum all about?
Over the shuffling of chairs, chitchat among friends and the sound of a muffled siren through the windows, Jess Heman opens the meeting. Our Visitation Coordinator at the Maybelle Center, Jess knows most of the members by name. “I’ve been here for about six months and I’ve heard a lot from staff what Maybelle Center is about. I’m really excited to hear about what you guys think.”
What does Maybelle Center do best?
Some members simply give their names. Others provide detailed soliloquys about what the Maybelle Center means to them. Here’s just a few snippets of how our members talk about Maybelle Center:
“They helped me out. Made sure I had what I need. [The staff has] a heart of gold.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned in this group is confidentiality. What’s said here stays here.”
“Also got to thank the staff. They fixed me up with pots and pans. And teach me how to not worry about what you don’t got but worry about who you got as a friend. Friendship is a good thing. I’m looking to make new family. My old family out in the world, over half of them are gone. I just want to make new friends, put trust in friends.”
“I come here for shelter from the other world. For peace and to enjoy my time.”
“Really proud to say they are wonderful people, kind compassionate. They helped me at the moment I was desperate for help. Maegann, Neal, Jacob, reached out and helped me in the middle of winter. When it was snowing, and I didn’t have anything.”
“It’s great – it’s a wonderful place to have friends – respect each other and be courteous. Basically just grow with each other.”
“They understand you know. One of the things I appreciate, I’m slow at things and they help me out and I appreciate that.”
Let the brainstorming begin
We moved quickly towards the part of the meeting where the members would take the lead – a brainstorming session about how to build even greater community at the Maybelle Center. One by one, members clear their throats, their thoughts moving outside of their bodies and suggest a plan for change to the group. Items such as member involvement in fundraising, a new chess club, a game night and a domino club surface. The room chuckles warmly as a member with mobility challenges makes a joke about participating in a boxing club.
It’s all over too fast
As the clock rushes toward the hour-mark, Jess interjects to let people know they would have to end the meeting before we’d discussed all the fabulous member ideas for community-building. Shoulders visibly dropped with disappointment as members heard they would have to wait until the next forum to discuss the remaining agenda items – nearly three months away.
And while there might have been a bit of lingering frustration about having to wait so long for the next forum, most left with the satisfaction that they had been heard. We overheard a member refer to the forum as “the best idea I’ve seen so far.” We’re committed to making the community forums a place we can work alongside our members to make their voices heard.