In Mesopotamia, a long, gravel driveway leads to 300 acres of rural farmland and housing. Residents, animals and staff wander the campus. Music, laughter and light pours into the dining area as close to 30 people eat breakfast together.
This is Hopewell.
Hopewell is a therapeutic farm that specializes in assisting adults with mental illnesses. It is the only farm of its kind in Ohio, and one of five nationwide.
The development houses up to 40 people ages 18 and older experiencing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, major depression and other mental illnesses.
Residents are encouraged to participate in the daily activities and classes. Work teams are created for tasks such as gardening, animal care, housekeeping and cooking.
Jack Childers, program service supervisor, said that the farm is an important component of the facility's success.
"People come here to work, it's therapeutic. That really builds a person up, builds their self-esteem," Childers said. "That's part of what makes us so successful."
Childers said that each resident at the facility is assigned a clinician, but the staff tries to let the residents work through their difficulties themselves.
In addition to medical assistance, a psychologist visits the facility once a week.
The functionality of the residents ranges from those who are self-sufficient to those in need of one-on-one assistance.
"For some people, if you get them to take a rag and wipe one table, it's a big victory," Childers said. "But it's also nice to see the higher-functioning residents help the lower-functioning residents."
Club Hope is a day program offered for adults who have a stable home life but could benefit from the structure of the farm. The program allows people to come in from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. three to five days a week to participate in the daily schedule.
A typical day at Hopewell includes breakfast, the morning meeting, exercise time, allotted work crew involvement, lunch, activities, classes and group sessions, dinner, and occasional off-campus recreation time.
Residents, staff and volunteers are separated into five different crews daily to work - animal crew, grounds and maintenance, garden, kitchen and housekeeping crews.
The animal crew focuses on the upkeep of the stalls, food and water. Participants gather eggs, milk cows, sheer sheep and care for the horses. Beef cattle raised at the farm provides food for the residents.
The kitchen crew uses the fresh food gathered from the farm to prepare meals.
The garden crew is responsible for growing the foods that residents and staff eat and food that is sold at the market. In the fall, these residents provide pumpkins, gourds and bales of hay to sell.
In the winter, the garden workers join the art crew to contribute crafts to sell at the market.
Hopewell began selling crafts in March 2011 and continued through December. They will begin again in March, selling items from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday.
"It's so very therapeutic to sit down and create something. We go to a lot of garage sales, tag sales and flea markets to get craft deals," said Cindy Wagner, program facilitator and art and garden supervisor.
The students crafted wooden sculptures, scarves and paintings for the market and to send to loved ones.
"I like to draw and paint, mostly," one of the residents said. "Even in school I would draw instead of take notes. It's kind of hard not to."
Crews also tap trees for syrup and grind apples for fresh cider to sell.
Residents get no revenue as the work is used for therapy. All of the money made at the craft shows goes toward supplies for the organization.
During the morning meeting, music is played and prayers are read. Newsworthy events and updates are given to residents and staff.
Staff member Rosemary Lynch praises Hopewell for the support system it offers.
"It's all about working together here," Lynch said.
Annie Beck works in Hopewell's development office and said it is a very unique setting.
"I think it's cool that the residents actually work here and learn to care for the animals and to care for themselves and others," Beck said. "It's one thing to be working in the office and telling people what goes on, but another to be here and see what people do on a day-to-day basis."
Cheryl Meister is a psychiatric mental health registered nurse and leader of the mental health class at Hopewell.
"I'm trying to give them the tools to use when they get out of here. The point is to get them to be independent," Meister said.
Jack Childers said an average stay at Hopewell lasts anywhere from three months to three years. Some residents, however, have been there since the opening in 1996.
During their stay, residents are expected to learn how to live independently after their stay at the facility.
"We're not a nursing home. We're not a group home. People need to be medically and psychologically stable to live here," Meister said. "We try to keep an eye on the mission. Our people are right in our backyard."