Rising Sun members find a good fit with group

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WALLA WALLA — There are 38 scars on Ashley Mace’s arms, some of them woven under newer tattoos. Cutting was once how she relieved stress, the 20-year-old college student said.

Diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum and bipolar disorders, Mace now finds relief in the company at Rising Sun Clubhouse, she said. “I can come here and talk about how I feel.”

Alternatively, when she goes to Walla Walla County’s Department of Community Health and expresses thoughts of hurting herself, it’s a different story, Mace said. “Bam, they call crisis response, and I’m there waiting for 10 hours. And I talk to them for about three minutes.”

Much better to be among others who have had similar thoughts with no intention of acting upon them, she said, rubbing a gentle finger over scars on her hand.

On Thursday, Mace was one of the clubhouse members discussing the possible closing of Rising Sun’s doors due to a nearly-empty bank account. In the organization’s space inside Walla Walla County Community Services Center, she was just one of those with a somber face at the thought.

Mace is studying accounting at Walla Walla Community College, with plans to go into banking or tax preparation. With that focus, understanding the financial problems of the nonprofit clubhouse isn’t difficult, she noted. “But I’m sad. I won’t know where to turn.”

Bronte Cocina echoed that. At 35, she’s been living with bipolar- and schizoaffective-disorders since 1998, she said. She’s at Rising Sun about 75 percent of the time the doors are open, Cocina estimated. “What will happen if it closes?”

When she is participating in the day’s activities, she operates at a “different level,” the member explained. “I have relationships. This is the place to get (mentally) stable. It’s better than lying in bed.”

Cocina, who also suffers short term memory loss, tries to replicate that energy elsewhere, such as church, she said. “It has to be the exact fit, though. It would be nice to be in church and strengthen my faith, but I don’t think God wants us to be there 24/7. I think he wants us to be out.”

The fit at Rising Sun wasn’t “exact” when she showed up in August, she added. “But then the group accepts you and you become part of the group.”

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