SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – November 15, 2021 marks the date that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Southwest Missouri will be able to help more people. NAMI will open the doors to its new home on 819 North Boonville Avenue at 9:30 a.m. The new location sits where the Victim Center used to be.
Executive Director Stephanie Appleby says today’s soft opening affects people who haven’t been able to access services since her non-profit started renovations two months ago.
“There’s been a lot of tears and a lot of late nights,” Appleby said. “I think what kept us going through the whole thing was just that we knew that we were doing this for the whole community, and for the people that need it. We’re so excited to be able to share that with them and show them the work that we’ve done, and for them to have all these services right there for them.”
NAMI paid $515,000 for the building, which Appleby says wouldn’t have been possible without an anonymous $100,000 donation.
“After that, me and two other staff members came over and started knocking down walls, laying flooring and all kinds of things that we never thought we were going to be able to do,” Appleby said. “But, we got it done. Every day when we were all about ready to lose it, we thought, ‘Wow, we’re doing it for these folks.’ It tested our mental health too, but it was a labor of love. We’re so, so excited to share it. I talked to staff and I said, ‘What are you guys looking most forward to at the building? Everyone said, ‘Having our people back.’ While a lot of our clientele think that we’re such a good resource for them and so helpful to them, they don’t realize how much they give to us.”
The new space will allow NAMI to have a room for art therapy, two support group rooms, a bigger computer lab and a mental health resource library. The location is also more accessible to those who often stop by places like the Veterans Coming Home Center. Appleby says NAMI is also looking into being a drop-off site for cold weather shelters in town.
“We just have a lot more ability to have creative control of what we’re able to do here,” Appleby said. “The new location is huge. We’re really excited about this building because we wanted it to feel like a home, like a place where you can just hang out with your friends. That’s a large part of what we do at NAMI is it’s not clinical. It’s all peer-based. I think we’ve created a space that is hopefully relaxing for our folks, inviting and has some things that maybe they wouldn’t have had access to somewhere else.”
Appleby says the move from North Robberson Avenue to Boonville forced NAMI to dig deep, especially as a nonprofit. Appleby says she and two other staff members did 90 percent of the work on the building themselves to save money.
“We don’t work for the money,” Appleby said. “We get very little pay and work long hours. I think something like this reminds you of why you’re here and why you do what you do. We lost a couple of clients while we were doing the renovation. We have a memory wall dedicated to the folks that have come here before that are no longer with us and I think that’s what keeps us motivated. We’re just excited to be able to share this space and make new memories here.”
What’s next on NAMI’s agenda is letting the community know about its move. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime soon. In the meantime, Appleby says her team needs donors.
“We don’t get the funding that other agencies do,” Appleby said. “We have scraped by with everything we have. That other $400,000 is looming over my head. That’s something that takes away from services that we’re able to provide. We are always in great need of donors. My dream would be able to get rid of that $400,000 so that we’re able to just have this building and not worry about that payment and be able to use any extra funds we get for our community. To me, that would be something that would be a godsend. That’s something that really bothers me. We’ve had very generous donors help with flooring, wallpaper and paint. We appreciate that, but the monetary part is something we always need.”
To donate to NAMI Southwest Missouri, click here.