Empower House is building a community and purpose for brain injury survivors

Local News

A new kind of workplace is coming to the Quad Cities, and it will be about more than just punching the clock.

It will be an office for healing.

Empower House has been in development for the last year and a half as a place for brain injury survivors.

It’s based on the clubhouse model.

The programs which provide employment training and therapeutic services operate around the world.

This would be the first time the framework has a presence in Iowa.

Since February 2019, Empower House has operated one day a week for a few hours in the basement of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

There the members, caregivers and founders are fundraising to reach the goal of their own place.

It will including a commercial kitchen along with an office space.

The clubhouse is designed for members to do most of the heavy lifting while also working to recover.

Member Kieanna O’Halleran said, “What does this place mean to me?”

It’s an important place for Kieanna “Kiki” O’Halleran.

O’Halleran said, “Provides a sense of community, and I’ve made a lot of friends here.”

That’s why one of her favorite jobs here is showing gratitude for those supporting this effort.

O’Halleran said, “Writing out thank you notes because I have really neat writing.”

Kiki has been a regular member since the brain injury clubhouse opened.

O’Halleran said, “I was in a house explosion in 2003 when I was 9, and I got burned, and I inhaled carbon monoxide.”

It’s part of a dream for twin sisters Missey Heinrichs and Mickey Owens.

Founder Mickey Owens said, “Missey and I had this dream probably, gosh 10 years ago.”

They both work as therapists, primarily for adults with brain injuries.

Founder Missey Heinrichs said, “Patients always ask when they were done with therapy, what’s next and in our area, we really didn’t have anything to offer adults.”

But the clubhouse model Empower House is based on is more than just a communal space.

Member Bob Boyd said, “It’s good because otherwise, I sit at home and don’t do nothing and I get to come here and socialize with people.”

It’s about recapturing a piece of life brain injuries often taken away.

“They woke up one morning, and they were planning to go to work, and then something and their lives changed forever and those folks lost a little bit of who they were, and they maybe have difficulty finding a purpose each day, and so that’s what they whole clubhouse is about,” said Heinrichs.

It will offer transitional and supportive employment programs.

Owens said, “Think you can touch on almost every aspect of someone’s career that they would have had prior, whether it would be in the business section, kitchen or maintenance.”

That has the growing number of members eager to work and run the clubhouse when it goes nine to five.

O’Halleran said, “That I’m important to the community.”

Every year in the United States, about 1.7 million people are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

About 33,400 are from Iowa.

During a recent fundraiser for Empower House, Local 4 News spoke with the CEO of the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa.

Geoffrey Lauer said this is an essential step for the state because it’s a place to find services brain injury survivors need.

“Especially in the last five years, in which people are getting out of the hospital from a brain injury sicker and quicker because of limited insurance times for rehabilitation and support and are ending up at home with very few options on how to navigate their days,” said Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa CEO Geoffrey Lauer.

Empower House is hoping to have the funding in place to open a permanent location in early 2020.

Owens said, “As a therapist, I always have the goal of improving someone’s quality of life and helping them succeed at their goals, but this just takes it to a whole different level. To see the smiles on their faces. ”

The are asking for donors and volunteers.

Learn more by visiting their website.

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