Members Like Smaller, Intimate Space
MINOT – The Harmony Center, a place where people can go for long-term support if they’re struggling with their mental health, moved last year. People were accustomed to its original location for 34 years, however, it seems to be faring well, with many of its members still active.
Though the new space, located at 720 Western Avenue Suite 201, is smaller than the old location. Jennifer Bartsch, Harmony Center director, says members like the new space much better than the old space.
“It’s homier,” said Bartsch. “It’s more inviting. It’s just nicer. It was difficult moving, but we did it.”
The new space, originally a dentist’s office, still has kitchen space and a place for a couch and comfortable chairs, providing for a good spot for peer support.
“We lucked out with the new landlord,” said Bartsch. “He’s super nice. He did a lot of remodeling on his own dime for us. He put all new floors in. He put windows in where there weren’t windows, took walls down. When we toured it, it was completely different.”
The entry area includes a TV for people to watch. There is also a resource and exercise room.
“We have way more storage for that room,” said Bartsch. “Really the only thing that didn’t come from the other center was the pool table. Everything else came.”
Unfortunately, there is less space for storing items that people wish to donate to the Harmony Center, and Bartsch says if people wish to donate, she asks them what it is and checks to see if there’s an immediate need for it, because there’s no place to put it.
“The space is smaller, but what we’re finding is that, because it’s smaller, it’s kind of making people interact a little more,” said Bartsch. “At the old space, it was so big, you could have five people in there and they’d never hang out together, just the way it was set up. Here, it’s forcing the members to interact with each other, which is good. It’s all about connection.”
Bartsch typically cleans up the members list in January, adding new members and moving those who haven’t been active in the past year to the inactive list. However, if a member comes back, Bartsch simply moves his or her name back onto the active list.
“We have had a couple deaths this year,” said Bartsch. “It is picking up each year. We are getting the new younger people in, slowly but surely. The biggest thing we’re really concentrating on now is getting the word out that we’re here, and how do other members that were pretty frequent at the other center, change is hard, so how do we get them here, what are the barriers. Is it transportation, is it the fear, is it that I walk and I don’t want to cross Broadway? So it’s working with them, helping them cross.”
The nice part of the new location is that it’s only a block from the bus station.
“Winter poses some challenges for people who walk, partly because some of the city sidewalks aren’t plowed,” said Bartsch.
This winter was the Harmony Center’s first in the new location, having moved last May when the weather was warmer.
The Harmony Center typically stays stable at around 100 members every year.
“Some of our members are struggling with the fact that some of the other members are passing away,” said Bartsch. “They had established really deep ties, and the fact that it’s not the same. We have some members wanting to go to the past, and wishing it was that way again, instead of, ok, it was a wonderful time, but how do we move from here, because we’re in the here and the now. The Harmony Center maybe was a place where they felt accepted for the first time, and they made deep friendships for the first time, and then things change.”
Bartsch said one of the main goals this year for the center is to keep many of the old members while still accepting the new ones.
“Since we’ve moved here it’s been a lot more people in their 20s and maybe in their 30s,” said Bartsch. “Most people that are using the Harmony Center now, are not coming to just hang out, we do have a couple people who still do that. But now we have all these peer support groups, and we’re doing very specific recovery education activities. When they’re doing peer support, feelings are feelings whether you’re 20 or 50. I think it’s good for some of the younger people that when you have an older person that’s had a little bit more life experience with the illnesses, to maybe do a little guidance.”
More information on the Harmony Center in Minot can be found on its Facebook page, and can be contacted at 701-852-3263.