Excerpt from an article in
ew York Newsday, Sunday May 23, 1999
*Please note that some of the information in this article is no longer current.
Dating Services Face Breakup
Berna Case and Alice Cohen's office is a tiny room cluttered with Rolodexes and file cabinets containing descriptions and phone numbers of lonely people looking for mates and friends.
But much to the dismay of about 200 clients in Queens and Long Island, Alice Cohen's Friendship Network, which has survived for eight years mostly on small donations and Cohen's checkbook, is planning to close down next month.
Cohen, a retired furniture store manager who lives with her husband, has received some donations from families of her clients – enough to make it through June – and she is making a last-ditch appeal for public funding to Nassau and Queens mental health officials.
The unusual program - the only one of its kind in the nation - has drawn praise from mental health professionals who see it as a way to shake the solitude and stigma of schizophrenia and severe mood disorders.
As Cohen - part cupid, part surrogate mother and part off-hours therapist - awaits word on the funding, news of the Friendship Network's possible demise has prompted clients and their families to barrage her with emotional letters, e-mail and telephone calls.
For many of the clients, what made them able to go on a date - or leave their house for bowling, tennis or other activities organized by the Friendship Network - was knowing they could tell their new companions the truth. Dating was hard enough – impossible for many of them until they met people they could talk to about being on medication, having insomnia, being afraid to ride the subway or scared of crowds, several said.
"A person does not realize how miserable they were until they have some happiness to compare it to," wrote one former client, enclosing a check for $100.