Pride - It's on the house
New shop gives mental health patients job experience and sense of worth.
BY MICHELLE TERWILLEGER                                                                                                               May 23, 2003
Californian Staff Writer

Standing beside a display shelf, Jason Schneider takes pride in showing off some merchandise: antique, wooden cigar boxes turned carrying cases with handles made from old jewelry.  "This was something very simple" he says, smiling.  "We put to use everything we get."
Wearing a bright blue work apron, Schneider, 22, isn't just selling antiques and collectibles, he's getting well. 
Before working at the shop, he wasn't sure he could hold down a job.
But after a relatively short time working at the store, he said, "I do think I do have what it takes."
Schneider has received outpatient mental care from the Anne Sippi Clinic Riverside Ranch for six months, but now he spends several days per week at the Garden House in central Bakerfield.  The two-bedroom, green trimmed Garden House opened this month selling furniture, wall displays and other treasures. But the owners real intent is to give people with mental disorders the opportunity to gain work experience.  "We view this as quite an accomplishment for them," said Susan Rajalal, chief administrative officer at the Anne Sippi Clinic.  When you give people

In the Garden House 's backyard William Earl Green Junior, right, and Gorndon Dimon tend to plants.

Now he is marketing the chairs, which run in the neighbourhood of $150.
"These are premium chairs made out of the best cypress wood," Schneider said.
 From its ranch location, Anne Sippi has sold the chairs and flowers arrangements for several years, incorporating gardening and craft-making as part of the healing program.
"It helps get the students and workers back in the community," Schneider said.  "When people are working, they don't have to sit and rot and let all the bad things in heir minds take over." Therapists and others use the shop as an opportunity to educate workers about overcoming obstacles and working through mistakes.  They also stand by the quality of the products they sell, whether they be garage sale treasures, refinished donations or original craftsmapship.  "We go to great length to make sure the thins sold here are beautiful." said Rajlal. Russ Sempell, a therapist at Anne Sippi, has noticed the impact the work environment has on the clients.  "They have come alive," Sempell said. "Just like the plants and the flowers around here are thriving, so are the people."

hope, its an amazing thing."
The Anne Sippi Clinic, which has a location in Los Angeles as well as on Highway 178 at the mouth of the Dern River Canyon, specializes in helping people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders.  It houses the home which used to serve as the Cottage Gardens shop, earlier this year.
Helping customers with a smile is something that Schneider couldn't imagine doing last year.
He used to hate being in public before he began attending the Sippi Ranch.
"I was afraid of what people thought of me,"he said.  "I learned not to care what people thought as a way of gauging my self worth."
 Like Schneider, most of the Anne Sippi Clinics 40 outpatients won't be starting out their therapy at the store.
Fist, they get to know the care providers, get their medicine stabilized if

 necessary and then take on small tasks like craft-making.  After that kind of progress, working at the store becomes a possibility.
Unlike the Sippi Ranch, the shop is nonprofit.  Proceeds from the sale of its furniture, wall displays, vintage jewelry, and other treasures will go back in the establishment and to the clients as wages.
Behind the house, Anne Sippi clients spray water on a yard full of tiny daisies, herbs, grass and various flowers. A path winds underneath an arc trellis covered with blooming orange nasturtiums.
Close to the house are Adirnodack chairs stained in various hues, handcrafted by patients at the ranch.
Schneider remembers building chairs like those at the Sippi ranch with one or two others: cutting the wood pieces and then putting them together.
"I wasn't the best at this," he said, laughing that he nearly nailed someone's hand.