COVID-19 Delays Opening of New Cornerstone Clubhouse

April 23, 2020 – To say that members of the Cornerstone Clubhouse, a day facility operated by Chimes Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems, are eagerly awaiting their new quarters is an understatement.  Now, thanks to COVID-19, they’ll have to wait even longer to begin using the new space.

“I’m so looking forward to it,” said Joanne, 37, a Clubhouse member for four years. “It’s closer to where I live so I can walk…and it’s going to have a bigger kitchen for me to work with. Everything will be bigger and better.”

“It’ll be a much cleaner environment,” added Angel, 42, who joined the Clubhouse just last year. “The bathroom here is just not up to par…going to this new place just seems so exciting compared to where we’re at now.”

Located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, the Cornerstone Clubhouse is part of an international network of facilities for people with a history of mental illness.  Clubhouses provide members a place to go during the day to find companionship and structure. Members help out by preparing lunch, keeping records, answering the telephone, and more, and gain the types of skills and support that can lead to full-time employment.

While it is now closed due to COVID-19, the Cornerstone Clubhouse is normally open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Under normal operations, members can also participate in weekly, after-hours events that offer both social and more practical option, such as a Valentine’s Day party hosted by a participant in her apartment.

New Location is Long Overdue

Chimes Holcomb’s Cornerstone Clubhouse opened about two decades ago in the basement of a multi-use building in downtown Phoenixville. The basement location makes it a gloomy place, and it’s never been especially spacious. Joanne noted the kitchen is so small that she and others have to do much of the lunch preparation in the dining room.

Renovations 20 years ago made the building serviceable, but since then a decline is evident.  The facility has had to close often due to flooding, the wheelchair lift works sporadically, and the plumbing is so antiquated professionals are reluctant to make repairs, according to Clubhouse Director Elissa Llorens.  Other maintenance has also been deferred. “It’s really hard to feel so great when you’re in a place that’s kind of dark and dingy, a place where you can see the paint falling off in the front foyer,” Llorens said.

“People just didn’t feel good when they walked in the door,” agreed Chris Filippone, Nurse Manager at Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems. “The Clubhouse is supposed to be an inviting environment so people can continue their journey in mental health recovery. But when you walk into a place that’s flooding, where desks and file cabinets are starting to rust — that’s a really poor environment for members. And for the staff, too.”

“The Clubhouse is meant to be literally a clubhouse, where the members come and have a community. It’s supposed to feel like a home away from home,” added Adrienne Pennell, Regional Director of Chester County for Chimes PA/Holcomb. “When you’re in recovery, you want to go somewhere that’s welcoming. And I don’t always feel that the old place was welcoming.”

Teamwork Made It Happen

Chimes began looking for a larger, more welcoming location years ago. The search was difficult given financial and geographic constraints.  Eventually, with help from a $40,000 grant from the Chimes Foundation and expertise from Shelly Shaffer, Chimes Vice President of Facilities, a building was located less than a mile from the current location.

The space is about 20 percent bigger and is above ground, making it cheerier and more comfortable. Moreover, the new location is closer to where many members live. Pennell said that several Clubhouse members even helped select tiles for the new space. She noted that members and staffers alike were “blown away by the new space. Everyone is just so excited. We’ll have the perfect Clubhouse.”

“It’s going to be beautiful,” agreed Nicole Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Chimes Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems.  “The possibilities this new space brings are an amazing thing for us.”

Renovations of the space were completed in March, the necessary licenses were secured, and equipment and supplies have been moved.  The opening of the new location, however, has been delayed until after COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Accreditors Impressed

The Cornerstone Clubhouse’s new digs already have given the Clubhouse a boost. Accreditors for Clubhouse International recently visited Phoenixville and were so impressed after touring the new site that they awarded the Clubhouse the maximum three-year accreditation. That makes the Clubhouse the only such facility in Chester County with that designation, according to Brown. “They saw the new site and were tickled pink,” she said. “It was a real coup for us.”

Excitement over the new Chimes’ Clubhouse has reached the highest level of leadership at Chimes.

“This new environment is healthy both for the staff and for the individuals being served,” said Chimes’ President and Chief Executive Officer Terence Blackwell. “The facility they were operating in was not the healthiest environment.”

Blackwell also praised the Clubhouse’s effectiveness — in particular, its use of research-based curriculum — and its three-year accreditation.

He explained that earlier in his career, he oversaw a Clubhouse in New York that worked long and hard to impress accreditors and received only a one-year accreditation.

“They [the Cornerstone Clubhouse] got three years, and that’s a big deal,” Blackwell said. “This is the gold standard for vocational rehabilitation.”

Chime In and Ring the Bell on COVID-19

The Community Clubhouse is just one of the mental and behavioral health and substance abuse programs provided by Chimes Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems that has been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.  Many of the programs require group activities and support that cannot be conducted while social distancing. Telehealth opportunities are being utilized when possible, but it is expected that there will be pent-up demand for services when restrictions are eased, and, that stress caused by the pandemic will lead to a surge in demand for mental health services.

You can help Chimes Holcomb Behavioral Health Services meet today’s need and be ready to help when restrictions are lifted.

Together we can Ring the Bell on COVID-19.  To make a secure gift online visit or mail a check to:

ATTN: Frontline Fund
4815 Seton Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21215