"The focus of the Momentum Center for Social Engagement is to provide a place for people with mental illness, addictions and other disabilities to build healthy relationships, engage in positive activities, and move out of isolation and into productive interaction in our community." - Barbara Lee
By April Jendrasiak
I've known Barbara Lee (pictured center), Expiri-Mentor and Creator of Extended Grace for quite some time now. We met while in a Leadership Connect program through the Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce. Barbara, along with many others in the community saw a need for support of those living with mental illness, addiction and other disabilities. Once Extended Grace was founded, Barbara moved fast on opening the Momentum Center for Social Engagement located at 714 Columbus Street, a much needed service to those in our community.
I dropped by the grand opening last week and chatted with a few volunteers, supporters, and employees about why they were a part of the Momentum Center. Ben Anderson (pictured left) was a joy to chat with. He is a volunteer and helps with the website, assists in program evaluation, and helps in other facets of volunteer work that may be needed. I could tell during the short time talking with him that he loved being there and loved helping out. Cali Caluza (pictured far right) is the cafe and Just Goods Manager. Just Goods Fair Trade Store and Cafe sells Fair Trade gifts, donuts, and Fair Trade Coffee. When I asked Cali why she does the work she does, she said with a smile on her face, "I like having the store open and available to the public. It provides the opportunity to support locals and make a global impact."
Before I left, I took a walk around the space. It was peaceful and emitted a feeling of calm and happiness. I can't wait to curl up at one of the tables and enjoy a cup of tea and read a book on a cozy Saturday afternoon. Also before I left, I couldn't resist and bought myself a new apron made by women in India and a bar of Lotus Soap. Both of the items are Fair Trade, like all of the items for sale at Just Goods, and help pull people living locally and around the world out of poverty.
What's the focus of the Momentum Center?
The focus of the Momentum Center for Social Engagement is to provide a place for people with mental illness, addictions and other disabilities to build healthy relationships, engage in positive activities, and move out of isolation and into productive interaction in our community. The Momentum Center is also a resource hub for finding out about resources offered throughout the community. Finally, the Momentum Center is focused on reducing the stigma that keeps people isolated and marginalized.
What inspired you to create it and who are your partners?
Extended Grace is a nonprofit grassroots social lab. We work to identify gaps in the system then mobilize collaborative efforts to address those gaps. When we formed almost two years ago, it was clear that there was a large gap in the area of mental health services. In January 2016, we held our first Town Hall Meeting on Mental Illness. As a result of this community conversation we formed a 36 member interdisciplinary task force and then started addressing the needs expressed by members of the community. The idea of the Momentum Center developed through those conversations. Our primary partner in this endeavor is Community Mental Health (CMH) and our funding for this initiative is primarily through the mental health millage, but we have partnerships throughout the community that have made the Momentum Center possible.
"Those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, and other disabilities often experience tremendous barriers when it comes to positive connection with other people. At the Momentum Center, there are social and recreational opportunities for people to come together in a nonclinical setting and find a place of safety and belonging." - Barbara Lee
How will it help those in our community?
What any of us need is connection to other people. Those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, and other disabilities often experience tremendous barriers when it comes to positive connection with other people. At the Momentum Center, there are social and recreational opportunities for people to come together in a nonclinical setting and find a place of safety and belonging.
Nearly 20 percent of the population has a disability. From 20-25 percent of the population struggles with mental illness, but only 40 percent ever seek treatment. This is not a matter of "us" and "them." We are all affected in one way or another by these issues and we all need to come together and support each other in our struggles. As we recognize this truth, we reduce stereotypes and begin to dismantle stigma. We provide a true community solution to community needs.
What services and programs are offered there and what does it cost?
The offerings will be come more robust as more people get involved. Right now members can play pool, air hockey, or Wii; spend time at the computer bay; or participate in classes on art, cooking, yoga, meditation, and self-development. There are also off site events and activities to Town Hall Meetings and places like Meijer Garden and Country Dairy. Membership in the Momentum Center costs $1/year and is open to adults who are struggling with mental illness, addiction or other disabilities, including those who are self diagnosed. Most activities and outings are available at no additional cost. Occasionally, a nominal fee my be charged for some outings but members will be notified in advance if that is the case.
Tell us about Just Goods... what is the Cafe? What's the story behind the Fair Trade goodies you have for sale?
What really makes the Momentum Center unique is the presence of Just Goods Gifts and Cafe' within it. Just Goods is open to the general public 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturday. Just Goods sells hand crafted fair trade and social cause merchandise and the Café sells local baked goods and beverages. By including retail and consumer businesses, the Momentum Center is a destination location for all people so that this is a place of social interaction and integration where misunderstanding is dismantled and stigma can be reduced.