A life-changing social club


The new East Side-grown social club, the TAP, provides a space for those with disability labels to shed those labels and socialize in an environment without judgement. The group meets monthly at Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, and it’s various guilds meet at Sojourner’s Cafe. courtesy of the TAP

The Urban Journal and the TAP recently hosted a stage and performance in Swede Hollow Park during the Art in the Hollow festival where, pictured here, Skye and Jaymeson performed together. Marjorie Otto/Review

The TAP provides a social outlet without judgement

 

“The first time I walked through the doors at a TAP meeting ... I could actually feel how different it was,” said Paul Stambaugh, a regular participant of the TAP.

The TAP, or Tapping All Possibilities, was created in September of 2016 as a place for people to shed their disability labels and socialize without judgement.

The idea of a social club without judgement had been one that Daniel Cashman had in the works for about 15 years, a need he identified while working with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for the past 25 years.

 Cashman said there has been a big push by DHS to help people live independently.

 “It’s a great thing,” he said. 

However, he added, that those individuals now living independently or alone often become more isolated.

“Our thinking was that if we created a fun and welcoming environment, where they could come and have fun, dance, play video games, hang out with friends, they would have that social outlet, they would feel more connected with the community because we invite everyone, not just people with disability labels,” Cashman said. “Then those natural supports get discovered in the periphery of a good time.”

 Last fall he and and a group of 15 fellow East Siders decided to test it out and gathered in Sojourner’s Cafe for the first-ever TAP meeting. One person with a disability label showed up. Soon the gathering grew from one to 20, then 20 to 50. Once it reached 75 people, Cashman knew the group “needed a bigger boat.” 

 Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood offered space and now the monthly gatherings average about 100 people.

 Recently, the TAP has spread to Columbia Heights, holding a meetup at Community Grounds coffee shop.

 Cashman said the goal is to have numerous satellite locations to make it easy for people across the metro to get out and socialize.

 Soon after the TAP was formed, other offshoots were created, forming the TAP Guild. The Guild consists of a writing group called the Urban Journal, an addiction recovery support group called Better Together, a social group to better understand autism spectrum disorder called Uniquely Us, the Wrestling Guild, the Video Gaming Guild and the Hood & Garrity Advocates Disability Alliance. 

 “I call it my sticky noodle theory,” Cashman said. “We’re just taking that noodle and throwing it against the wall to see what sticks and sure enough a bunch of them are sticking and we’re realizing the recipe we’re cooking up here is pretty good.”

 

Changing lives by coming together 

“For a long time I was basically stuck in my apartment; I was an agoraphobe,” said Stambaugh, creator and organizer of the Better Together guild.  “I didn’t go anywhere; groceries were brought to me, my therapist came in house. I had everyone come in house to help me because I couldn’t go anywhere.”

 Stambaugh suffers from severe anxiety, depression, PTSD and is currently recovering from opiate and alcohol addictions.

 Because of his anxiety, Stambaugh struggled with AA and NA meetings.

 “I just felt like when I walked into the place like everybody was looking at me and staring me down and I felt forced to say something.”

 When he and his wife split up, he wasn’t able to see his children for years, which caused a breakdown and the start of the agoraphobia, or fear of crowded or public spaces. 

 He said at times it was so debilitating that he couldn’t even leave his closet, let alone his house. But then Cashman came into his life and they became friends. 

 “Somehow he saw something in me,” Stambaugh said of Cashman, who invited him to the TAP. Stambaugh checked it out and said it changed his life.

 “It’s exciting, it really is exciting because I know that now I have hope, I see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in a long time,” Stambaugh said. 

 When he first stepped through the doors at his first TAP meeting, he said he could feel how different it was compared to his experience with AA and NA meetings.

“I didn’t feel all these eyes on me, because that’s what anxiety is in social situations, you just feel like everybody’s looking at you, everybody’s judging you and it just causes all this anxiety and you just don’t want to be a part of it,” Stambaugh said. 

 Now Stambaugh regularly attends meetings — outside of his home — and speaks in front of people.  

“That’s kind of the miracle of this whole thing; it makes you want to have a better quality of life and it makes you want to help other people have a better quality of life.”  

Soon after his first TAP meeting, Stambaugh came up with the idea of a room at the TAP gatherings called the Fridge, where people with anxiety could take a couple minutes to “chill” in a low-stimuli environment. 

 A few months later, Stambaugh established the addiction recovery group Better Together. He leads the monthly meetings, something he never thought he could do with his severe anxiety.

 “It’s just been a life changing experience in just about every way possible.”

 

A platform to share experiences

 Mike Prenosil has been with the TAP since its first event. He first met Cashman at the 5-8 Club in Minneapolis. They were talking about music and writing when Cashman suggested Prenosil come to the first TAP meeting and read some of his work, something Prenosil had never done before.

 Prenosil’s readings helped open the door for other people to hold the microphone and share their stories.  

“Out of that, the Urban Journal was born,” Prenosil said. The Urban Journal is headed by Prenosil and Becky Fisk, another member of the TAP. Together they host monthly meetings for writing, workshopping and performing. 

 Prenosil has been writing for 16 years, using it as a way to deal with depression. Before the TAP, Prenosil had never performed any of his work.

 “I’ve used [journaling] almost my whole life to battle depression and have some kind of relief and outlet,” Prenosil said. “Now for the TAP to support me so much that I can do the Urban Journal and do that for other people, it’s really brought this thing full circle.”

 Prenosil said writing is an important step in self discovery, but it’s also important to share it with others.

 “Because having that [journaling] outlet is great, but if you’re not expressing it, you know, it’s just kind of locked up.”

 “I like to say [Cashman] gets them in the door and gets them rolling,” Prenosil said. “Then if they’re willing or wanting to express their story or anything about their life, then that’s where I come in and try to give them a voice.”

 

Who we are, not what we are 

Cashman said he has been blown away by the support from the community and how quickly the TAP has grown.

 “When people realize what we’re doing, they want to be involved,” Cashman said. He added that the religious community has been very supportive by sharing their spaces.  

 “The TAP is spreading like mad fire,” Stambaugh added, emphasizing that the organization is breaking down barriers.

 What began as an experiment, Cashman explained, now has community members who don’t “wear a label” wanting to get involved, “to sing a song or express themselves in this space because it feels so good to know that nobody cares how you dance or how you sing, what you look like, or where you come from,” Cashman said. 

“We’re more focused on the who we are, rather than the what we are, and that has been pretty magical as we’ve built this.”

For those interested in attending a TAP meeting, joining any of its many guilds, or to help out, go to yourtap.org for upcoming events and more information.

 

- Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.


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