Center offers help for those with brain injuries

November 20, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse in Chicago's West Loop is one of the few places people with brain injuries hang out.

"We have about 60 active members, so they're not all here on the same day at the same time. but on an average day, we have about 28-30 people on an average day. How many can we accommodate? It depends on really on the day because there are several activities that take place off site. So that being the case, we can accommodate more," said Tammiko Bess, executive director.

She also says the organization has been around for 12 years.

"We used to be in Park Ridge, then made the move here, because more of the people we are serving are in this area," Bess said.

The oldest clubhouse member is 71. The youngest is 23.

"They have to have an acquired brain injury. So that could be anything from seizures to being in a motor vehicle accident, drug overdose. With the veterans it could just be a TBI."

With only three staff on salary, they provide different services.

"There is the component of relearning some skills that may have been lost due to their injury or even just sharpening skills. There are some people that, for instance, may have been right-handed and lost the use of their right side. So, they have to learn to write with their left. There's also people that are working to obtain their GED that didn't even have that before they got injured," said Bess.

"Some people have lost their ability to socialize appropriately. So, you're really working with them to have a comfortability of talking to someone, initiating conversation, not having a fear of being out in the public and people looking at them differently," Bess said.

"It costs $66 a day. We get paid from the state about $45. For different people -- we work on a sliding scale," the executive director added.

Their biggest challenge is the need to grow.

"We have a waiting list, and we do need to expand. We would like to be able to serve everyone that needs assistance, and right now, we're kind of limited mostly because of the state of the economy and not having the ability to know when we're going to be paid," said Bess.

Otis McKinnon, 35, became disabled in 1998.

"A car accident, drinking and driving," he said.

He comes to the clubhouse four times a week.

"I love the people here, the people are awesome," McKinnon said. "I thank God for these people here because I wake up every morning anticipating to come here every morning."

Bill Hippert is 48 years old. He became disabled at age 24 in a motorcycle accident.

"My life has been all downhill until I came to Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse. Now, everything is moving up," Hippert said.

"There's not a lot of services at all for people. And they want to work, they want to be independent, but there's not much for them," said Bess.

To find out more about Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse, go to

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