If you walk into Rudy's Happy Patch Market, chances are you'll see Connie Cooper behind the counter. As customers shop for their fruit and vegetables, they may be unaware that Connie, the assistant manager, is a recovering alcoholic, and is living successfully with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She's one of 62 folks ages 18 to 60 enrolled at the Perry Wellness Center in Americus, Georgia.
"This is a healing place, it's all about healing and recovery, to go out and help others," said Cooper.
Connie and her peers rely on each other to pull them through. NAMI Columbus President Frank Dunford says the peer system works.
"So people who have had successes in their journey to recovery they impart those successes on to people who are either just beginning or just coming out of a crisis mode, so they can help them stay in recovery," said Dunford.
Those enrolled in the program work at the Happy Patch, shelling peas, planting produce, nurturing the plants, running the business. Some graduate from the program and take jobs out in the community. Everyone has something to do outside the counseling and treatment.
The Perry Wellness Center was founded by Stuart Perry. Perry's father suffered from depression and committed suicide in front of him when Stuart was 21. Stuart Perry was diagnosed with depression, but he sought help and is today considered one of the nation's foremost advocates for the mentally ill.
If you'd like to know more about getting help for yourself or someone you love, you can call NAMI at 706-320-3755. NAMI is celebrating its 30th year.