The Refuge Center for Counseling hosted its annual fundraiser, Hope Grows, on Tuesday evening, where the team called on the community to help launch the nonprofit into even greater service in the years to come for meet the increased need for mental health services in Middle Tennessee. Region.
The organization also honored Franklin Mayor Ken Moore with the annual Hope Award for his help in raising community awareness about mental health.
The virtual and in-person event at the Rolling Hills Community Church celebrated the Refuge Center’s 15 years of providing a wide range of mental health counseling services to Tennessee residents on a mobile pay scale, making healthcare mental health more accessible to all, whatever their financial means. .
Refuge Center co-founder and executive director Amy Alexander said the nonprofit serves more than 4,000 people a year and that demand for services has increased by 22% throughout the COVID-pandemic. 19.
âThirteen months ago our lives and our world changed forever. Every person in the world has suffered loss on some level. None of us could have imagined the amount of loss, uncertainty, helplessness or isolation we would face, âsaid Alexander. âAnd for everything we faced on the outside, we lived on the inside. We have been through an emotional tornado, an emotional bomb and an emotional pandemic. People have become desperate for safe places.
The refuge center has sought to be that safe place for the community, as evidenced by its name, offering a helping hand to those in need of help.
Alexander and his team have worked hard to humanize mental health issues. She said everyone is functioning in some state of mental health, and the need for support for mental well-being shouldn’t be more stigmatized than the need for healing for physical pain.
âThere’s been this old stigma or this shame around mental health, so we think, ‘Well, mental health means someone is broken, or it means they’ve had depression,’ a- she said, “Well, sometimes that just means you’re heartbroken. We want to change people’s understanding of mental health and humanize it.”
Client testimonial videos that were shown throughout the ceremony shared stories of people who received support from the shelter center and saw hope regained, realized that their lives mattered and regained a feeling. of peace and power after difficult circumstances to now feel a sense of pride in who they have become.
For some, these difficult circumstances included the loss of a child or an abusive relationship. For others, it was a marital struggle or a tough season at work.
While the Refuge Center team strives to see new clients as quickly as possible, the waiting list currently contains around 200 applicants, growing at a rate of 70 referrals per week.
Over 80% of customers have to pay less than full price for services. Thus, the nonprofit largely depends on the generosity of the community.
Alexander said the organization was also leading a fundraising campaign to build a state-of-the-art facility on 7 acres of land at Berry Farms that would include more indoor space and elements of nature to increase its ability to serve the community.
“This [facility] is changing the face of what community mental health care can and will look like, âshe said. âThere is nothing like this campus in the country right now. “
It currently has 80 staff members sharing 32 offices in the current facility, which is open 75 hours per week. Thus, not only will the new building serve thousands of additional customers per year, but it will provide more space for staff.
The current fundraising goal for the nonprofit is $ 2.2 million by 2022, and Alexander believes that reaching that goal will require large and sacrificial donations from a few key donors in plus small gifts from members of the community in general.
The mayor receives the Hope award
Alexander, alongside Refuge Center board members Robin McVey and Shelley Moeller, also presented the annual Hope Award to Moore for his work in raising awareness of the need for mental health and highlighting the resources available in the community. local community.
After identifying mental health as one of the four pillars of Franklin’s need to become a healthier Tennessee community under the initiative of former Governor Bill Haslam, Moore launched Find Hope Franklin, a health resource center. mental health and awareness group, in 2020 alongside a blue ribbon panel. which includes mental health specialists and various representatives of the Franklin community.
In accepting the award, Moore echoed Alexander’s message that the stigma needs to be erased from the mental health narrative, because people with their mental health should not suffer in isolation.
âI want to end with an apology, and I hope you join me in this apology, and it’s an apology for those who are still in pain,â he said. âThese are an apology for those who suffer from substance use disorders, an apology for families in crisis or those who have lost their families to suicide. And that apology is that we didn’t recognize it, and we didn’t act soon enough.
Moore’s goal for Find Hope Franklin is to also provide learning opportunities for residents, such as question-persuasion-referral (QPR) training, to lead to a more informed and prepared community.
“There is no longer any reason to apologize,” said Moore. “We can solve this problem together.”