The brainchild of Alice Cohen, Friendship Network was inspired by difficulties experienced by a family member. Alice realized that those recovering from mental illness are often isolated from their peers and unable to make and/or sustain friendships.
Recognizing that establishing a social life is a crucial part of recovery, Alice founded the Friendship Network to bring people together. Nancy Schlessel, FN Social Worker, shares Alice's vision and they feel that together they can help people make these vital connections.
Friendship Network's goal is to help alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness that members experience because of their illness. By participating in the program, they meet other members and begin to develop friendships. Most feel free to be themselves because of shared experiences and mutual understanding.
Through introductions and group participation, members are offered a chance to develop or redevelop the social skills they may have forgotten. Our eventual goal is for our members to develop the self-confidence necessary to expand their social life beyond Friendship Network.
Alice Cohen began the Friendship Network (née Friendship Exchange) over twenty years ago. The demand for this service was and continues to be great. As an intregral part of NAMI Queens/Nassau, Friendship Network falls under its 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Friendship Network, however, is obligated to be self-supporting.
Our staff spends an inordinate amount of time with members. Our members require support in a variety of areas including dealing with their anxiety around socializing, grooming, telephone etiquette and the logistics of making plans. Sometimes a member needs to be eased into a situation by role-playing, practicing what they should say, how to present themselves when meeting other members and how to follow up and plan a second meeting.
Throughout Friendship Network's existence, there has never been any issue of safety for our members. All members, having met a new person, are required to contact Friendship network office. If there is any hint of a potential concern, a call is made to their therapist immediately.
Director: Alice Cohen is well suited to direct the operation of this service. She is empathetic, sensitive, caring, supportive and personable. Her personality exudes the warmth necessary to relate to Friendship Network's members.
Social Worker: Nancy Schlessel, Director of Program Services,LMSW. After several years of experience in the field and community, Nancy joined the staff of Friendship Network. She works closely with Alice in running all aspects of Friendship Network.
Program Assistant: Barbara Garner supports all client services and facilitates at client events.
Friendship Network offers all members the opportunity to pay dues on a sliding scale or provides full scholarships. While this clearly limits our income, Friendship Network is dedicated to helping all those in need, not wanting to deprive the very person who needs this service the most because he/she has limited funds. Contributions to the Friendship Network help provide full or partial scholarships for those with no alternative resources. We therefore appreciate and constantly need to seek donations and grants to maintain our program. If you would like to make a donation please visit this link.
With proper guidance and sufficient funding, the goal of Friendship Network is to reach out and touch as many lives as possible. The long-range plan of the program is to facilitate its members' mainstreaming for friendships, employment and happiness.