Sam Durbin is a middle-aged woman who reads and writes at a third-grade level, doesn’t know the difference between a capital letter and a lowercase letter and has trouble with punctuation. Spelling is very creative. The root of her developmental disability is that, at the age of 2, Durbin was hit by a bus. Her disability sent her to several homes that treated her like a child rather than the adult that she was. About a decade ago she found Alliance of Abilities and not only became a co-founder, but a staff member of Integrity House.
Durbin explained, ‘[Integrity House] is a strong peer support program so we can be treated as equal human beings in our society as anybody else.’
The Integrity House, which is a clubhouse run by the Alliance of Abilities, aids the traumatically brain injured and the developmentally disabled. On May 6, in conjunction with the UC Irvine Greek community and Rebuilding Together, the UCI Greeks hosted their first annual joint community-service project known as the Extreme Clubhouse Makeover where students, staff and members alike helped renovate a dilapidated clubhouse on 2043 N. Broadway in Santa Ana.
The clubhouse, established on Aug. 19, 1997, was previously located in Fullerton until it was destroyed for another building project. Aided by Independent Living Services, Integrity House is able to assist members who are living alone for the first time in cooking, cleaning/maintaining their homes, grocery shopping, how to balance a checkbook and make sure they keep within their budgets, make doctor’s appointments, et cetera. Integrity House is funded through Regional Center and through private grants.
For four months, Alliance of Abilities, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic and Greek Community Service diligently planned this one-day event in order to provide Integrity House members a nice, safe place to work during the day without pay so they can have fun and meet new people. Because they are not a treatment or rehab center but rather a psycho-social or a community-based model, the active involvement of maintaining the clubhouse gives their members a sense of independence.
Ryan Kneubuhl, clubhouse director, commented, ‘For some of them, it’s their first introduction to self-direction—to actually make their own choices, choose their level of independence that they want to have. … Some [members] spent eight hours working today and other members took on a couple jobs. … It’s completely their own choice and that’s kind of the whole point. Anybody can tell someone what to do but if you’re motivated toward one goal and you stake out what you want to do. That’s independence.’
Founders of the Integrity House, Cathy DeMello and her sister Mary Shannon, David Giglio and Durbin helped direct students to each of the different projects: interior painting, landscaping, mural painting, installing a basketball court, and building a wheelchair accessible ramp, a snack bar and a 150-foot fence.
Sponsors of this event included Monster Energy Drink, Lowe’s and Sport Chalet.
There are 300 clubhouses worldwide for people with mental illnesses. This is the only clubhouse that serves members with a developmental disability and traumatic brain damage. The new Integrity House, which is three times the size of the original site (now 14,700 square feet), has 26 rooms that include a run-down kitchen, a snack bar, a free grocery store and a classroom that currently only teaches an art class.
The IFC was very involved with the staff and members of Integrity House. In fact, president of IFC and third-year economics major, Ben Dadbin, expressed, ‘Everyone was there for one purpose and one purpose only