In the market for additional space for at least the last three years, it was a bit of good luck that led the Caring Place to a recent opportunity for relocation. A couple of members were passing by the new site at 206 W. Sixth St. in Newton. Seeing that it was for rent, they contacted landlord Leroy Koehn and set up a meeting with Caring Place director Barbara Gibson — a meeting that would help address a need.
"We were overcrowded. Our tables were too close together. People were having to move each other to walk around. It wasn't going to be able to be very attractive to any new members and we didn't have any storage space," Gibson said of the old site.
On top of providing more space, the new location for Caring Place also comes with lower rent, while Gibson also worked out a deal with Koehn to remodel the space to include a second bathroom and kitchen. The organization officially moved into its new headquarters on May 30.
Caring Place is a consumer-run organization of former and current mental health consumers dedicated to fostering independence and recovery through employment, friendship, socialization, wellness and public awareness. It is run for and by peers with mental illness.
Gibson noted the new location — as well as a slight increase in funding from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services — will help the organization meets its mission. Moving from just south of the Amtrak station (with little to no pedestrian traffic) to next door to the Salvation Army also means the organization and its mission will be more visible to those it is intended to serve.
"The location at the Salvation Army means that a lot of low-income people will have a chance to see that we're there. It is often the case that if you have a chronic mental illness, you may be disabled and unable to work or working part time and probably living in poverty. Many people who have a mental health condition are disabled," Gibson said. "So, we think this location is going to make our presence known to many people in the area who are isolated and need a place to be able to get out of their apartments or out of their homes and socialize with some other people."
For more information on Caring Place, visit the organization's page on Facebook or call 316-284-2935. Hours of operation are 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.