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Triumph Center expands space to serve mentally ill

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ - The Mid-Iowa Triumph Recovery Center (MITRC), located at 101 W. Main St., helps people with mental illness connect with peer-driven resources, to help build coping skills, decrease social isolation, improve self-esteem, learn leadership skills and lower the rate of hospitalizations. Sharon Swope, left, serves as executive director, and Lori Kirschbaum works as a part-time peer support specialist for the center.

Those living with mental illness — especially when its severity impacts quality of life — can feel isolated, unwanted and unsure where to go. The Mid-Iowa Triumph Recovery Center (MITRC), founded in 2013 in Marshalltown, seeks to connect these folks with peer-driven resources, to help build coping skills, decrease social isolation, improve self-esteem, learn leadership skills and lower the rate of hospitalizations.

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come. We’ve been in this spot a year and a half, and added (additional floorspace) just last month,” Executive Director Sharon Swope said.

The MITRC, 101 W. Main St., recently acquired the building in which the former Mayfair Cleaners operated, adjoining its previous headquarters with the new space. (The two businesses shared the same address, with MITRC positioned in the rear part of the building).

When the group began five years ago, it first met in the basement of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, before moving on to the Gathering Place, a building west of First Presbyterian Church (and owned by that church). In October 2016, the center moved to 101 W. Main St.

“We’ve increased our numbers dramatically. We have 2-3 new people come in every week, and over 200 members,” said Swope.

While the MITRC is designed as a drop-in facility, regular attendees are asked to become members, by filling out some paperwork and adhering to confidentiality rules, which ensure other people’s privacy.

Lori Kirschbaum works as a part-time peer support specialist for the center.

“We try to do an assortment of activities, and think of new things to do within our funding,” Kirschbaum said.

Since the group offers periodic field trips for its members, it relies on staff-owned vehicles and transportation borrowed from local churches.

“One of our dreams is to be able to purchase a van,” Kirschbaum said.

MITRC is funded through the Marshalltown Area United Way and the Central Point of Coordination in Marshall County, and also relies on grants and donations. It partners with local agencies and businesses to connect its members with mental health and recreational resources.

Clients deal with an assortment of short-term and long-term mental health issues, ranging from depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other conditions.

Staff members have told attendees that if they ever need to talk to someone but don’t know how to start the conversation, all they have to say upon entering the center is the word “blue” and immediately, someone will engage with the person.

“We are the county’s drop-in mental health service, and we want to make it the best, because we have a lot of need in this community,” Swope said. “They’ve cut so much down on mental health funding, and hospitals aren’t a good place to go; many of them (the clients) walk right out of the hospital and through our doors.”

The center is stocked with games to encourage people to come spend the afternoon socializing and making friends. Kirschbaum, along with fellow peer support specialist Susan Rix, conducts educational presentations throughout the month. Other activities include pizza parties, bowling, going to the zoo, touring scientific and historic sites and watching movies.

“Mental health recovery means stability — to have a place to vent, get their mind off mental health issues, and do arts and crafts and play games,” said Swope.

The center is in need of cushioned chairs, lamps, end tables, window coverings and a pool table.

The MITRC is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and from noon to 3 p.m. the second and fourth Saturday of each month. A grand opening will take place later in the year, at a date to be determined. For more information, the center may be reached at 641-750-9041.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at (641) 753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com

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