Making a Difference
Scroll through each story to read how Penn Foundation is helping the lives around us.
My name is Francois, and I am a proud person in recovery. In 2008, my life was the opposite of what it is today. Due to the wreckage of my active addiction, I found myself in the criminal justice system. I was sent to Allentown, where I was then offered treatment for my substance use disorder. This is how I came to know St. Luke’s Penn Foundation.
St. Luke’s Penn Foundation was my first real exposure to recovery. I learned so much while I was there and received such compassion and empathy from the staff and recovery community. From there, I was referred to halfway house where I continued my journey of recovery, taking what I had learned and further applying it to my life. I met the most amazing people in the process, and things have happened in my life that are beyond my wildest dreams.
Today, I can say that I am a person in long-term recovery, which means that I haven’t used drugs or alcohol for over 13 years. I have a home and people who love me, including my wife and five children. I have a rewarding job that allows me to provide for my family and be a productive member of society. On September 12, I was able to celebrate my 39th birthday at Rally in the Valley with one of my best friends and share the message that Recovery is for Everyone. I am forever grateful to St. Luke’s Penn Foundation for jumpstarting my recovery journey.
For many years, depression and mania interfered with my daily life, including my job. Therapy had been ineffective. When a change in my insurance forced me to find a new provider in 2015, I came to Penn Foundation. I was no longer working, but I wanted to work again. My therapist told me about Wellspring Clubhouse, a volunteer program that helps individuals achieve goals similar to mine. I was skeptical about Clubhouse at first, but little did I know just how much this program would change me and improve my quality of life.
Before I knew it, my social skills were being rebuilt. My crippling social anxiety was becoming more manageable. I began socializing and discovered my desire to re-learn office skills. All of this was helping me to become comfortable with the idea of returning to work and navigating the myriad of social nuances that come along with having a job. Clubhouse staff helped me write a resume, practice my interview skills, and research jobs. I now work as a medical receptionist/ security guard, a job that I’ve held for more than a year during the COVID pandemic. It is because of Wellspring Clubhouse and my own inner strength that I was able to overcome the trauma in my life and achieve my goal!
My name is Marcus, and I come from an upper middle class family with two loving parents and two successful brothers. In high school, I was an all-state athlete, and I received a scholarship to wrestle in college. My parents raised me with strong morals and an unbelievable work ethic. Yet, I still fell into the trap of addiction. I’m currently in recovery from a heroin addiction. I’ve spent years in and out of state prisons, county jails, and rehabilitation centers. I’ve been robbed, stabbed, and shot at. I’ve been homeless and on welfare. I’ve overdosed, and I’ve lost more friends to the disease of addiction than I have left. I’ve lost the chance to fulfill my dream of earning a degree in secondary education and becoming a gym teacher.
I remember the morning that I contacted Penn Foundation like it was yesterday. I was out of money, had burnt every bridge I had, and desperately needed somewhere to go until I could figure out my next move. I didn’t plan on actually participating or even being awake too often. When I googled Penn Foundation, I remember seeing pictures of the facility and thinking how nice the chairs looked. I reached out and came to Penn Foundation…never imagining that once I walked through their doors, I would never use again. But that’s exactly what happened.
I was introduced to a completely new way of life. My counselor worked with me to reclaim my life and become a caring, responsible member of society again, one that my family could be proud of. I learned the importance of finding the right pathway for my sobriety and how gaining “recovery capital” should be a constant in my life. The effort of the Penn Foundation staff towards MY recovery was so eye-opening and refreshing. This place with the comfortable chairs in Sellersville ACTUALLY cared. Today, I’m proud to report that I took the dream that I’ve always had to teach kids and transformed it into something that has changed me in ways that I can never express. Penn Foundation gave me my life back and, in the process, showed me that I could still live my dreams. And now my dream might actually help other people too.
I reached out to Penn Foundation during a desperate time in my life. Drugs had a hold on me, and I had reached a terrible bottom. I was in a relationship with a woman who was also using, and we were facing eviction. I didn’t know how to live – how to take care of myself, eat healthy, keep our home clean, pay bills, and take my medication. All I could focus on was getting more drugs. I was also struggling with mental health issues and feeling incredibly hopeless.
I’ve struggled with my recovery, but Penn Foundation has always been there for me. I knew that Penn Foundation would give me the best help possible for both my addiction and mental health issues. The staff have gone above and beyond to pull me out of bad situations and help me find a better way to live. I have a close relationship with each member of my treatment team, and I know I can rely on them for any problem I have; we work things out together. I’ve benefited from several Penn Foundation programs – Penn Villa, Village of Hope, Case Management, Peer Support, Wellspring Clubhouse, the Recovery Center, and others.
Thanks to Penn Foundation, I am now making plans for my future. I work with my team to discuss my short and long-term goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Penn Foundation has also fostered my love of art, helping me to enter an art show in which I won second place. I will always be grateful to Penn Foundation for being the light in the darkness of my addiction and helping me to reclaim my life.
For the first time in our lives, an unanticipated situation found my husband and I unsure about where we would live. It was very stressful. While family and friends offered to take us in, they lived too far away. We needed stability, a secure place to call our own, in order to feel like we could navigate our lives.
We found something unique with Penn Foundation. Penn Foundation’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team helped us to create a safe home for ourselves and our beloved dog. The team treated us with respect and kindness and considered our needs and capabilities when helping us secure a residence.
ACT also helped to guide me back to the me that had gotten lost. The team helped me to focus on some life issues that I needed to address. I made appointments with doctors and dentist, communicated with family and friends, and worked on skills that I put aside until I was in a stable living situation. I once again had goals, which was life-affirming. ACT is my safe place.
I would say that Penn Foundation:
- Rescues people, coming into their lives during difficult times and brining them back to a place of stability
- Repairs people, working in partnership with people to address their challenges and heal their pain
- Renews them, helping to relieve burdens and scars and re-establish a meaningful life
- Remains, always being a steady presence for those in need
In the chaos of our world, Penn Foundation is a safe, reliable place of hope for those who are struggling.
*Name and photo changed to protect privacy.
Parents to three young daughters, Allyson and Theodore first accessed Penn Foundation’s Early Intervention Services in 2016 when their middle daughter, Hazel, then 2, needed occupational therapy for self-help skills and adaptive needs.
Allyson and Theodore worked closely with an Early Intervention Service Coordinator who coordinated and oversaw the services that their daughter needed. They are pleased with the progress that Hazel has made. “Hazel has become more independent in eating, dressing, toileting, and navigating obstacles safely,” says Allyson. “Early Intervention has also encouraged us to continue adapting our home for Hazel, without enabling her. Adaptations have been simple, and allow her to participate in daily activities at an age-appropriate level.”
When their youngest daughter, Celeste, showed signs of torticollis, which would require therapy, Allyson and Theodore again accessed Penn Foundation’s Early Intervention program. “We wanted to receive the same personalized, one-on-one care for her,” says Allyson. “Thanks to Early Intervention, Celeste is now hitting milestones on schedule.”
Mental Health Outpatient
Judy has dedicated her life to teaching the gifted program to elementary-age children. Outside the classroom, Judy turned to Penn Foundation for much needed support.
Since 1980, Judy has been seeing an outpatient therapist to manage her bipolar disorder and other overwhelming life situations. In particular, Judy found that she took better care of others than she did herself. With support from her therapist, Judy has learned how to create better balance in her life.
Each month, she works with her therapist to set goals – her “homework” as she calls it. “Regular counseling has really given me perspective,” says Judy. “I’ve learned how to work through difficult situations, and I’ve learned the importance of having outside interests. Now I know how to make time for what’s important to me.”
Implementing all that she has learned has allowed Judy to pursue her passion for teaching for 27 years, winning the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1999.
Wrap Around and Family Based
Diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, and borderline Asperger’s syndrome, Austin was impulsive and experienced severe bouts of separation anxiety. “On the way to school, he would try to jump out of the moving car,” explains his mother, Susan. “When we got to school, the anxiety was so bad that he would vomit and pass out; then we’d have to call an ambulance.” Austin’s deteriorating behavior led to multiple inpatient stays.
This routine was draining on Susan, a single mother who stopped working to care for Austin. But thanks to Family Based and Wrap Around, Susan no longer feels alone, and Austin is thriving in a new school. “Austin has matured tremendously,” says Susan. “He is able to focus and regulate his behavior, and he loves school now.”
“Penn Foundation has been my backbone,” adds Susan. “When the team comes to work with Austin, it’s like a friend coming to visit. I consider Penn Foundation family, and I wouldn’t be here without their help.”
When Matt enrolled in the Peer Support program, he had no idea just how profoundly his life – and outlook – would change. “Out of everything I’ve done while working towards recovery, nothing has given me more hope than the Certified Peer Specialists I’ve met,” says Matt. “Seeing individuals who live with mental health challenges using their experiences to help others deeply resonated with me.”
Matt credits Penn Foundation with renewing his hope for the future by helping him find his sense of purpose. “I discovered a passion for helping others who share my same struggles with mental illness. I am hopeful that one day I can make the same impact in others’ lives that has been made in mine.”
A recent interaction that Matt had in the community shows that he is on his way to achieving that goal. Approached by a mother who saw parallels between Matt’s story and the mental health struggles that her child was experiencing, Matt was asked about what motivated him in his recovery.
“Although I will probably never know if my advice was helpful, I am certain that she left that night with more hope than she came with,” says Matt. “Even though my own recovery journey is far from over, knowing that my progress has given hope to someone else fuels my hope for my future.”
Village of Hope
Prior to residing at Penn Foundation’s Village of Hope, Laura was struggling with bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol addictions. She has been hospitalized multiple times and spent several months in jail. Feeling alone, Laura appreciated visits from Penn Foundation’s FACT (Forensic Assertive Community Treatment) team while she was in prison. Once she was released, Laura worked with the FACT team to find housing that would support her recovery.
“I really like the structure that the Village of Hope offers,” says Laura. “It has helped me so much. I also appreciate that there is always someone around; I’m not alone anymore.” With the support of the Village of Hope staff, Laura got a job as a waitress at a local cafe. She also got her driver’s license back and bought a car. Weekly visits from her young son keep her focused and motivated.
“I’ve been through a lot of programs, and Penn Foundation is by far the best one,” says Laura. “The staff really cares about me, and that makes all the difference.”
When she became a member of Wellspring Clubhouse three years ago, Ann didn’t know what to expect. Not only was she unfamiliar with the Clubhouse, she was also new to the area, having moved from Arkansas. Initially, she kept mostly to herself, completing a task and then leaving the Clubhouse without much interaction with other members.
But the friendly, welcoming nature of the Clubhouse and the supportive staff helped Ann to begin feeling comfortable socializing and building relationships again. Looking back, Ann says, “I didn’t realize how important friendships were to my recovery until I became a member of the Clubhouse.”
Ann credits Wellspring Clubhouse with teaching her how to advocate for herself and giving her the confidence to attend college and to volunteer. In 2015, she completed the POWER Program at Montgomery County Community College and is currently looking into bachelor’s degree programs for communications. She has also been volunteering at the Indian Valley Public Library in Telford, watering the gardens and shelving books on tape.
“Knowing that I have a place like Wellspring Clubhouse in my life makes waking up easier,” says Ann. “I have a place where I can go and talk about anything. Being a member of the Clubhouse has been very fulfilling, and it has given me purpose.”
For Don and Judy Cooper, ensuring the long-term care and safety of their only child, Lisa, who lives with schizoaffective disorder, has been their main priority. With a parent’s passion, they have worked fervently to connect Lisa with the services that she needs to manage her illness, live independently, and achieve meaningful roles in her community.
For the past 13 years, Lisa has been an active member of Wellspring Clubhouse, where she has had the opportunity to socialize, learn computer and office skills, and gain work experience. In 2011, she moved into a townhome through Penn Foundation’s residential program – Penn Villa – an integrated community of safe, affordable, permanent housing.
For the Coopers, both of whom are only children, connecting their only child to the community through Penn Foundation has brought them immeasurable peace. “Penn Foundation has been a beacon of hope, providing our daughter with wonderful opportunities to become a productive member of the community in which she lives,” says Don. “We see, each day, the dedication of the staff working to help each member rise above their illness, realize their potential, and move forward.”
Jared first tried drugs in the sixth grade, started using marijuana in the 10th grade, and in his early 20s, experimented with cocaine. He also struggled with schizoaffective disorder. Jared’s unstable mental, emotional, and physical health led to violent episodes, suicide attempts, and multiple lengthy hospitalizations.
He was referred to the FACT (Forensic Assertive Community Treatment) program, which, according to Jared, saved his life. Jared has learned coping skills to manage his mental health symptoms and has developed relapse prevention plans for his substance abuse recovery. FACT team members have accompanied him to medical appointments, arranged transportation, and offered support with housing issues.
“Jared has engaged in treatment wholeheartedly,” says Alexandra Bustelo, Lead Clinician on the FACT team. “He’s always willing to try something new that may help him make positive changes and improve his quality of life.”
“I am so grateful for FACT,” says Jared. “The team has taught me how to make healthy choices and take care of myself. I would be lost without it.”
At first, John didn’t even realize that he was struggling with depression. He knew he was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by his physical health challenges such as the neuropathy in his hands and feet. He was also experiencing stress at home with his mother’s alcoholism, raising four daughters, marital discord, and financial issues. It wasn’t until he visited his doctor at TriValley Primary Care and was given a depression screening that he became aware that his feelings of sadness and anger were symptoms of a more serious mental health issue.
“My doctor recommended that I seek services at Penn Foundation,” says John. “I was open to it and began outpatient counseling about six months ago.” Through counseling, John learned to adjust his expectations of what his life will be like living with pain and chronic illness. He has also gained a better understanding of how his mental health and physical health impact one another– how his depression intensifies his pain and how his medical conditions impact his mood. This understanding, combined with his willingness to acknowledge that his life is different because of his medical issues, has allowed him to improve communication and strengthen relationships within his family.
“I have learned to control my anger, to accept what I can’t change, and to not hold onto things. Because of this, I am able to communicate more openly with my wife, which has dramatically improved our relationship. Our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been,” says John.
While he acknowledges that he’s a “work in progress,” John is determined to continue building on the strides he’s made and to not let his physical and mental health challenges prevent him from enjoying life. He says, “Thanks to Penn Foundation, I now know that whatever happens, I am not alone and I will get through it.”
Zach smoked his first cigarette when he was just 9 years old. At 11, he tried marijuana with a friend. By 14, he was snorting heroin and other opiates. Though he was never affiliated with a gang, he hung around with kingpins, selling drugs to make money.
Consumed by addiction, which controlled every aspect of his life, and tired of living what he calls a “selfish” life, Zach, now 19, came for inpatient rehab at Penn Foundation’s Recovery Center.
“My entire mentality has changed,” Zach says. “At the Recovery Center, I’m surrounded by ‘real’ people who take their recovery seriously. I’ve realized that I have not been a good son, and I want to earn my mom’s trust back. Because of the support I’ve received at the Recovery Center, I think that it’s possible. Penn Foundation has changed my life.”
Employee Assistance Program
Penn Foundation’s EAP provides support to more than 16,000 employees at 78 companies. Clemens Family Corporation, then known as Hatfield Quality Meats, was one of the first businesses to offer Penn Foundation’s EAP services to its employees.
“Penn Foundation and the Clemens family have very similar core values,” says Philip Clemens, (retired) Chairman of Clemens Family Corporation. “Penn Foundation’s programs for helping people with mental health, addiction, and other challenges were exactly what we wanted for our employees.”
“The EAP program offers our team members and their families a comfortable, confidential place to turn to for help and support when they need it,” says Tim Clemens, Team Member Care and Connection for Clemens Family Corporation. “We are privileged to have partnered with Penn Foundation to provide our employees with hope and healing for so many years.”