JFS’ PLAN Clubhouse
Photo: Submitted by Ruth Josenhans
From left: JFS’ Development Manager Jillian Hiris; Lisa W., PLAN member; The Popcorn Shack owner Darla Predtechenskis; and Chris O., also a PLAN member.

Job ops bring position, pride and peace

By Deb Silverthorn

PLAN (People Living Active Now) is a program of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas where adults living with persistent mental illness come together as a community with the common goal of working toward recovering their mental health, valuing meaningful relationships and hard work. Jewish Family Service PLAN Clubhouse members are finding new employment opportunities and fulfilling their goals through this much-needed program.

“The core objective of PLAN,” says Cathy Barker, JFS’ president and CEO, “is to provide meaning and purpose, skills, support and training, to help our members to participate in the community in meaningful ways.

“Our team, our members and organizations in the community that offer jobs all work together to bring positive and meaningful opportunities,” said Barker. “That’s what we strive for because that is what life is about.”

Providing both transitional and supportive employment opportunities, PLAN staff work with members to find job placements and help in their training.

“This is an amazing program. We’re proud of our PLAN members out working and appreciative of the companies that hire and truly make a difference for them,” said Ruth Josenhans, PLAN director. “For some of our members, it’s been years, decades even, since they were working. It’s a joy for them to be out there, to put some money they earn themselves in their pockets, to feel worth.”

PLAN, geared for adults 18 and older living with mental health challenges and for their families, was founded in 1991 and merged with JFS in 2017. In addition to employment support, the PLAN Connections Team, funded by North Texas Behavioral Health Authority, provides case management and peer specialist support for those who need help securing housing, navigating benefits, dealing with medical concerns and other areas related to activities of daily living.

As a requirement of their accreditation, PLAN staffers help Clubhouse members locate job placements and assist in their training. Some have taken time away from the workplace due to mental illness, and the support of the PLAN community helps them through challenging transitions.

PLAN Clubhouse members work with Aussie Pet Mobile, prepping the vans and doing laundry; at Golden Chick, straightening the lobby or working as restroom attendants and overall keeping the restaurants ready for guests and others; at The Popcorn Shack, making popcorn, packing gift bags and more.

The Popcorn Shack’s owner, Darla Predtechenskis, was introduced to PLAN and the timing worked out that as she needed seasonal help around the winter holidays, PLAN was looking for additional work opportunities for their members. A match was made, one that morphed into a lasting relationship.

“The PLAN members who came to work for me were setting up shipping, processing orders and putting together a couple of thousand gift bags. I really don’t know how I would have managed without them. It’s been a pleasure ever since,” said Predtechenskis, who has been intentional about making her business a warm and welcoming place for PLAN Clubhouse members.

While some PLAN Clubhouse members who have worked for The Popcorn Shack remain there, others have used it as a launch pad; but the relationships are lasting. When JFS’ Resale Shop was open, PLAN members worked there. They have succeeded in a variety of positions at Amazon, Hobby Lobby, Tom Thumb and elsewhere.

More than earning a paycheck, which due to disability rules means most PLAN members can only work part-time, the true compensation for being back in the workplace is confidence, the control of one’s life they experience and the achievement of their goals. Through the PLAN Clubhouse employment program, many goals have become reality. According to Josenhans, some members have put themselves into the position that they have been able to work full-time and drop their benefits.

“The goal for each person, like anywhere,” she said, “is whatever is best for them.”

Chris O., now working at a Tom Thumb grocery store, is just one of a number of PLAN Clubhouse members who worked at The Popcorn Shack and also JFS’ Resale Shop.

The opportunity to get back to work has “given him back his life,” he says.

“I couldn’t work for an hour to begin with but then I did, then six hours, then more,” he said. “I was referred to JFS a little more than 10 years ago. I am in a good place.”

Chris, who has found that bagging groceries is an art  — one at which he now feels accomplished — says he couldn’t imagine not so long ago that he’d ever enjoy talking with customers. But he does.

“I’ve become more social and learned how to manage and reduce anxiety that held me back from so much,” he said. “I’ve gone from isolation to activation. While I’ve worked hard, I couldn’t have done it alone.”

Wanting to make sure others feel the confidence and success he has, Chris made a generous donation to JFS last year and he hopes to give back more.

Lifting one another up, PLAN staffers and members provide life-changing opportunities for those who may have doubted their ability or confidence to ever work.

For more details about the PLAN Clubhouse, to volunteer or otherwise engage, visit planntx.org or call 972-379-9904.

  • Post category:News
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Leave a Reply