By Dale Madison
When Mark Ketcham, the Executive Director of the SunServe, began our interview, he asked me, “Do you like to chat on the phone?” After a long beat that contained what I’m sure was a puzzled look on my face, I realized that he was speaking about the “telephone tree” that SunServe has put together. Let’s explore: If you are homebound and living in Broward County, with no one to check in on you, SunServe has set up a network of people to make one phone call a day, in order to check upon just one individual, and make sure that they are safe. I looked at Ketcham, and couldn’t help but say, “What a great idea—especially for those who are infirmed.”
“That’s just one of the programs that SunServe offers,” explains Ketcham. SunServe began in 2002 as a mission of the Sunshine Cathedral, with a mental health initiative purpose. It quickly established its own tax-exempt foundation and status. That mission has greatly expanded over the last decade in both scope and services. Ketcham fires off a short list of programs and constituencies that the organization serves.
“We have Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAAG) that meets here on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at our south location, our Women for Women drop-in group [by drop in, he means you don’t need to belong to the group, you just stop by for its meetings] gets together on Wednesdays at the Wilton Manors office. We have an HIV long term survivor group, which meets on the first and third Thursdays, also at the Wilton Manors office. We have a gay male empowerment group, and they meet at the Pride Center at Equality Park on Thursdays.”
Ketcham notes that with a large LGBT community that is centered in one geographic area, comes a dark underbelly. “Unfortunately, one of the areas that we had to address is intimate partner abuse. This is a group for LGBT people experiencing abuse in their relationships, or who have just left an abusive relationship.”
“One thing that I am very proud of is our One-on-One group, which right now includes 115 participants. Through it, we work with local students of family and marriage therapists. Students have to delegate 2,000 hours of service, under the supervision of licensed therapists.”
Ketcham adds that SunServe has not forgotten its original aim of offering support to those with special emotional needs. “We currently have a waiting list of kids who require mental health services. It’s tough with the budget cuts.” Noting the irony, he adds, “This year, we have a budget of $248,000 for mental health services—and the longest waiting list of those in need—in our history.”
In spite of the challenges, Ketcham and SunServe keep one eye firmly focused on the needs of the future, and the growth that will require servicing those needs. “We have recently added a Gender-Bender group, which meets Monday nights for the growing transgender community. A year ago, the United Way came out with a program to help with preventing teen suicide, and we have been working closely with them on this growing concern.”
To learn more about SunServe, and to find out more about volunteering or utilizing its community resources, visit sunserve.org, or call (954) 764-5150.