A working portrait of recovery: Ken’s story

May 22nd, 2018
Ken Stechuk working in the food pantry at the Salvation Army in Wyandotte.

In the palette of his life, Ken Stechuk blends two different passions: painting and baseball.

In both, he sees order, form and beauty that continues tradition and yet always produces a new experience. When Ken is not at work, he is most likely immersed in either his field of art or the “field of dreams.”

Ken works at the Salvation Army in Wyandotte. He has been there for about a year, helping to stock the pantry and distribute food items, set up activities, and clean up.

Ken Stechuk sketching during a break from work.

“Ken is a hard worker and very likeable,” says Ken’s supervisor, Janet Jackson. “Whatever needs to be done, he is always willing to help.”

Ken is part of the Individual Placement and Support – Supported Employment (IPS-SE) program at Southwest Solutions. He receives mental health counseling at our Waterman Outpatient Clinic, and also joined the IPS-SE program there for support in obtaining and sustaining employment. Manuel Partida, an Employment Specialist with the IPS-SE program, assisted Ken in securing a job, enabling Ken to advance his recovery and live independently.

“It takes self-motivation and discipline to work, and that’s important to me,” Ken says. “I enjoy serving others and helping people in need where I am now. I ‘m still hoping to find a job in art one day.”

Ken has a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Eastern Michigan University. After graduation, he worked as a typesetter for an auto publication. Over the years, Ken has filled many sketch books with his drawings and watercolor paintings. He says that his style is influenced by 20th century abstract artists, like Willem de Kooning, and he likes to work from photographs of people that he sees in newspapers or magazines.

Two of Ken’s watercolor works, depicting coffee workers (top) and onion field workers.

“I like to portray people in the working class doing everyday things and working with their hands,” Ken says. “I feel that their contribution should be honored and uplifted, and never looked down upon.”

Ken’s interest in baseball started when he was a child. He played Little League ball and was a member of the team from Birmingham, Michigan that went to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA in 1973. Ken played outfield on his high school team and then played for an unaffiliated minor league squad in Detroit after college. He is currently helping to coach a Little League team through Detroit PAL.

It was during high school, Ken says, that he first started to feel that something was amiss psychologically and emotionally. He felt withdrawn and vaguely depressed from low self-esteem, though he continued to accomplish things in his artistic and athletic pursuits.

Ken credits counselors and caseworkers at Southwest Solution for creating a treatment plan that has helped stabilize his life and attend to his individual needs and goals. He is a shy and introspective individual but has become more socially comfortable.

Ken is one of 59 individuals that our IPS-SE program helped to find employment last year. The program started ten years ago and is supported through Medicaid billing.

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