Talk Story: Friendship House turning 30, having a party

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Felina Butay, Iris Ijima and Terry-Ann Moses, left to right, are all working hard with the rest of the staff and members of Friendship House for their 30th birthday party happening Aug. 31.

Boxes of hats and T-shirts, fliers and stacks of notes were laid out about the Friendship House at the beginning of August as staff and clubhouse members got ready for Friendship House’s 30th birthday party on Aug. 31.

Established in 1988 out of an existing program at Samual Mahelona Medical Center, Friendship House is a part of the state Department of Health and provides social rehabilitation and community for adults with mental illness.

Bowling and movie outings, partnerships with Walk for Life and Kauai United Way, and an employment program keep members connected to each other and the community, and a clubhouse model provides responsibility for all the members in a safe and family-oriented setting.

Located in the blue building across Kuhio Highway from Kealia Bluff, the clubhouse has a full kitchen and space for outdoor and indoor games, an office and clerical space for record- keeping and administration. It currently has 69 active members.

In the midst of party planning, staff member Iris Ijima, member and meal planner Felina Butay and director Terry-Ann Moses took a moment to chat about Friendship House with The Garden Island newspaper, and share a bit about what the clubhouse means to them.

TGI: Terry-Ann, you mention you’re the newest person to Friendship House. How long have you been director and what made you all decide to throw a party?

Terry-Ann: One of the reasons why it was perfectly fine for me to move from Miami to here was that I got to work at a clubhouse. The continuity of a clubhouse, it functions as such that both the members and the staff are working side by side to do the work of the clubhouse. It was comfortable moving here because I knew they’d show me around.

You don’t have to depend on needing another staff person to show you the ropes because the members take great initiative in telling you what to do. You never have to worry about anything. If you’re not doing things the right way or putting something where it doesn’t go, they’ll let you know.

So we decided to do the party, in part I decided to do the party, because it seems like no one really knows what we do here at Friendship House. I’m the newest to the bunch — I’ve been here two years and about two months — and of course, new to the island, everyone wants to know where I’m from and what I do. When I told them I work at Friendship House, everyone said they drive past it but really don’t know what we do.

That’s a shame. We’ve been in the community for 30 years and it’s a remarkable achievement, mainly because of people like Iris and Felina, who do the daily work and come regularly and put in the effort of maintaining the clubhouse throughout whatever members and staff come and go. Having that consistency and stability should be celebrated. We’re going to be 30! We should have a party!

TGI: What can we expect on Aug. 31 and how are you guys preparing for it?

Terry-Ann: That’s the meeting we had earlier today. We’re having a program that we put together and we’re doing a silent auction and a raffle, games and prizes, and we’re having food trucks come by. We’ve got the taiko drummers performing and our own musical group, The Friendlies, they’ll be performing as well.

That group is made up of the members, us staff members, we just do the copies and help with sound and make T-shirts or whatever they need.

It’s a community thing, for everyone to come by and for us to reintroduce Friendship House. We’ll have members doing tours and explaining what the clubhouse means to them.

Right now, I’m torn between “What happens if everyone shows up?” and “What happens if nobody shows up?” Felina will be doing all the baking for our bake sale.

Felina: I’ll be making banana bread, mango bread, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, almond cookies. I’m good at chocolate chip cookies and the banana bread. Everyone loves them but I just bake and oh my, what did I do?

TGI: Felina, you started at Friendship House when it first began, what’s your favorite thing about being a member?

Felina: I started at Friendship House in 1988, way back about 30 years ago, and through Friendship House started working at Kauai Cookie. After that I was at the Hyatt. I work here in the kitchen. I also do the paperwork and the orientation folders at Friendship House. I’m everywhere. Our employment program is really good.

We used to have a thrift store and I loved that, but then we moved all the clothes out and turned it into a pantry.

Terry-Ann: Felina does all the shopping and makes grocery lists. All the members and the staff do things side by side so we make and prep everything in-house for our fresh lunches that we make every day. We make things like chicken and barbecue ribs, the kind of food you want to take a nap after but can’t because you still have to work.

TGI: Can you give us a short history of Friendship House and how it’s changed since 1988?

Iris: It was small group and actually it was a program in existence at Mahelona and a group of staff got hired on to learn the clubhouse model. They came back and took the participants in the day program and said “Hey we’ll find our own space.” At Mahelona, they had arts and crafts and other things and they cooked meals and played cards, but this group of staff people came back with this idea that we’ll implement this clubhouse model and find our own location and empower people to make choices within the clubhouse itself and then hopefully within their own lives.

We moved over here in 1998. We tried a satellite clubhouse on the Westside but location didn’t quite work. It was located in a preschool. People from the Kappa site would travel to Kekaha to try and start this program and became the handful of members that would attend, so it didn’t work.

We started with 12 people. We have 69 active members now.

Terry-Ann: We’ve served more than 300 members in the last 30 years.

TGI: What have you learned from being part of Friendship House?

Terry-Ann: We go to Kokee out to Camp Sloggett and do a weekend retreat here, this Miami girl when she first got hired was not all about the camping. I do things with and for the clubhouse that I’d never do in my regular life that no one in my regular life could ever get me to do. But, if the members ask me to come camping with them, I’m like, “Of course, I’ll come camping with you guys.”

It’s a growing experience for both members and staff and it gives us a chance to learn from each other and understand there’s no barriers between us. Mental health isn’t a barrier.

w Friendship House’s 30th birthday party is set for Aug. 31 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the clubhouse.


Jessica Else can be reached at 245-0452 or at


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