Spirit of Ministry: Relationships and recovery revered at RAVE

affiliates mary calkins, jan schneider, mary snider and wilma spaeth pose for a photo
FSPA affiliates Mary Calkins, Jan Schneider, Mary Snider and Wilma Spaeth, members of the FSPA Franciscan Hearts Affiliate Companion Community

By Mary Calkins, Jan Schneider, Mary Snider and Wilma Spaeth

“Recovery happens, and everyone who comes here is a testament to that.” This statement comes from RAVE, Independent Living Resources’ Recovery Avenue program. Our FSPA Companion Community, Franciscan Hearts, collaborates with the organization with the aim to add more client stories of healing and success.

Independent Living Resources, by its mission statement, “is committed to community diversity through advocacy, choice and education resulting in empowerment for individuals with disabilities.” RAVE takes these ideals even further: “The power of self is to be emphasized rather than illness,” and strives to “empower with peer support and education in a strength-based environment.”

Those investing themselves in RAVE are adults, 18 years of age and older, living in mental health and/or substance use recovery. Those served include people from all walks of life who benefit from having a safe, recovery-focused environment with access to support systems and services that will aid their individual journeys to recovery.

In addition to recovery, RAVE focuses on providing resources and supporting self-determination. Operating as a drop-in center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, RAVE is unique because it is a peer-run organization: participants have a strong voice in what happens. While staff members are highly trained, it is not the belief that these professionals will know what is best for an individual. All clients participate by their own free will, and each person’s recovery path is supported, not mandated.

RAVE staff, of which the majority are certified peer specialists, recognize that individuals are experts in their own lives and will learn what works best for them by actually leading the process. Staff members apply their knowledge of the recovery process, along with the individual’s shared personal information, to help each client think creatively about what might be effective coping strategies — how to best implement them in their lives — and evaluate whether or not they are working for them. The combination of extensive community resources and information sharing that happens at RAVE provides clients with comprehensive tools to reinforce positive, productive lives. RAVE also abides by Independent Living’s philosophy which focuses on self-advocacy. This model has proven to be effective: 90% of participants report benefiting from the program as a whole, and 90% say that the opportunity to partake in specific offerings, like support groups, community activities, art club, etc., has aided their recovery process.

As a peer-run program, decisions are made based on what RAVE clients would like to see and find most effective. This is determined through advisory council meetings, surveys, listening sessions and one-on-one conversations. Feedback from the participants is taken seriously, and all persons are strongly encouraged to take part in the decision-making process as they are comfortable.

The program’s administrative costs are covered through ongoing contractual relationships with local agencies such as La Crosse County, United Way and others. This allows all funds from an FSPA ministry grant to be reserved for non-administrative expenses.

For RAVE, fostering relationships with its clients and the La Crosse community, including our affiliate companion community — the Franciscan Hearts — is leading to rewarding endeavors that change lives.

Visit ilresources.org for more information about RAVE.

About Affiliation
FSPA’s affiliation community is made up of more than 260 people who are spiritual collaborators joined in sacred relationship and support one another to live the Gospel and transform our world. Each affiliate becomes part of a companion community. Members of the Fran-ciscan Hearts Companion Community include article co-authors Mary Calkins, Jan Schneider, Mary Snider and Wilma Spaeth, affiliates; Deb Hayes, Marilyn Hempstead and Shelly Lamb Vosen, affiliates; and Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Maris Kerwin and Malinda Gerke.

andria winchel headshot
RAVE certified peer specialist Andria Winchel

Andria’s RAVE story
Today Andria Winchel is celebrating her one-year anniversary as a certified peer specialist at RAVE. When Andria first began her recovery journey, she was unaware that peer recovery centers like RAVE existed. Andria states, “If I would have known about RAVE, it would have been really helpful. The last thing you want to do in your recovery is sit alone. Here you are not alone.”

Andria began her journey into recovery after a rough path with addiction and mental health concerns which ultimately led to her being placed in an inpatient psychiatric hospital four years ago. Andria was told that to be released she needed to become involved in a recovery-oriented program. She agreed and was enrolled in a comprehensive community services program. Once enrolled, Andria was connected with a peer specialist who helped support her through her early recovery.

Andria’s recovery path ultimately led to her enrolling in the human services program at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where an instructor told her that they thought she would be perfect for the role of peer specialist. Andria enrolled, completed the course and passed the exam to become a certified peer specialist. While she initially worked with children as a peer specialist mentor, she saw an employment ad for RAVE seeking a peer specialist and decided to apply. That was a little over a year ago. Today Andria says that “when I walked through the door [at RAVE], I felt like I was at home.”

Andria feels that she benefits as much from working as a peer specialist at RAVE as do the people who come into the drop-in center. When asked why RAVE has made a difference for her, she says, “On my hardest days, it gets me out of bed. I know that I have to be there to open the doors. At the end of the day, I know that I made it through another day.” As to why RAVE is so beneficial to the community, Andria shares, “When people come in, we always ask them how they are. Maybe someone hasn’t asked them how they are and meant it. We truly care about everyone here. RAVE shows them they are not alone. As peers we are not perfect — we’ve had the struggles, we’ve lived the life. If someone wants to change, they can change their situation with time and resources. They just need ideas for what might work.”


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