Downtown Greenfield: The Road Ahead, Day 2

Second of five parts

 

When Jessica Mullins first heard a health clinic was moving into the nearby Main Street storefront formerly occupied by Whitney Hill Antiques, she was disappointed by the loss of another downtown retail space.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Ugh, it’s not retail and it’s not a restaurant,’” she said.

But Mullins, who owns the Magical Child toy store and World Eye Bookshop at 134 Main St., said part of running a small, independent business is learning to adapt and to look at things from a new perspective.

“It’s happening. Instead of going, ‘Aw man, that stinks,’ I try to think of it as hopefully that’s going to be a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people waiting for appointments,” who could become her next new customers, she said.

As traditional retail continues to change, with much of the marketplace moving online, Mayor William Martin asserts that the main streets of tomorrow are going to be those that provide a richer blend of services — like health care — than seen historically. From there, he said, the private market will take advantage of the increased foot traffic by opening entertainment venues, boutique stores and more.

 

As the county seat, Greenfield already provides many of the services residents need, such as health care, banking and education, and therefore is well-positioned to take advantage of this change, Martin noted.

Greenfield retailers have found ways to adapt and survive in the changing economic climate, by doing things like lowering operating costs, providing personal service that keeps customers coming back — and taking advantage of foot traffic from downtown service providers.

Many sanguine about downtown

Timothy Grader, president of Holyoke Property Management, recently purchased two prominent buildings in downtown Greenfield, at 278 and 302 Main St. He said he decided to invest in the downtown because of its independent retailers, which Grader said gives the community a unique feel. He also likes the downtown’s walkability. He said today’s developers are designing shopping centers to look and feel like classic downtowns — much like what Greenfield already has.

Grader’s buildings are home to a number of businesses and restaurants, including Thai Blue Ginger.  He said he’s done several renovations to the structures so far, including upgrading the heating system, replacing sections of roof and renovating a couple of vacant units that have since been rented.

Michael Tucker, president of Greenfield Cooperative Bank, agrees that Greenfield’s downtown has a unique advantage.

“Malls are struggling right now, and a lot because of online. But because people want to deal with a downtown, they want to deal with an open air center they can walk in and out of from their car, there’s an opportunity there, although retail will never be what it was,” he said.

Tucker said the ideal mix would consist of restaurants and cafes, downtown apartments and some retail that makes sense for Greenfield, like Wilson’s Department Store.

At present, of all the ground floor storefronts on Main Street, only about a half-dozen are vacant.

Other people believe the traditional model of retail will and should remain a big part of the mix — especially in Greenfield.

Roxann Wedegartner, who recently stepped down as chairwoman of the town’s Planning Board after 16 years, said people still like to shop and see goods in person. Communities like Brattleboro, Vt., Keene, N.H., and Northampton have managed to stay successful by keeping an interesting mix of downtown businesses, and Greenfield should keep striving to do the same, said Wedegartner.

“I still believe that the goal really is for a mixed-use development of downtown, not a single use — not just offices, whether they’re services or law offices. That’s a very, very narrow and commerce-killing viewpoint, in my mind,” she said.

Wedegartner said, for example, the town could further encourage mixed-use development by incorporating an adaptive reuse overlay district in its zoning ordinance, which would encourage developers to reuse abandoned, vacant or underutilized buildings.

A changing mix a reality

When Wilson’s Department Store President Kevin O’Neil first came to Greenfield in 1981, he said downtown was home to many national chains, including JC Penney’s, Sears and Woolworth.

“In that time, we lost a lot of the major retail presence on Main Street,” he said. “It was more of a destination for shopping than it is with the mix that’s available today.”

Today, Wilson’s is one of only a handful of independent department stores left in the United States.

Cohn & Company Real Estate President Robert Cohn agrees, saying 44 years ago, most of his tenants were national retailers like Woolworth, Kinney Shoes and Western Auto.

The Cohn family owns several prominent Main Street buildings, including those that house King’s Gym, Opus, Hattapon’s Thai Kitchen and John Doe Jr. Used Records.

“We had all these regional and national brands and one day they woke up in the ’70s when all the malls were coming and said, ‘Although we do well in Greenfield, we’re going to leave because we think we can do better with the cumulative attraction approach that the mall will offer,’ which is now failing 50 years later,” he said.

Today, instead of national chains, Cohn said, most of his tenants are local entrepreneurs with good ideas and ambition, but almost all of them are undercapitalized, which makes their startup precarious. He said entrepreneurs need to have a good business plan going in, and no one should start a business without going to their accountant, their attorney and their banker to get a realistic idea of everything it will take to put that plan together.

Cohn said he tells new business owners that they need to be able to sustain themselves for 12 to 16 — maybe even 18 months without a definitive source of income.

“It’s a real challenge, and sometimes no matter how smart and clever, you’ve got to have a niche. You’ve got to figure out what people need who are here and will come to patronize your widget,” he said.

Cohn added that although the lenders in town help entrepreneurs financially, he believes they must also lend expertise and guidance.

George Gohl, owner of the Garden Cinemas on Main Street and president of the Greenfield Business Association, notes the effects of big box stores on downtown is complicated. Some argue that a big box on the town’s periphery can hurt Main Street, but at the same time, a big box store in another nearby community can hurt, too, Gohl notes. Because Greenfield doesn’t have a Wal-Mart, there is a certain segment of the population that will leave town to shop at the discount retailer in Northampton, Hadley, Orange or New Hampshire, resulting in a multimillion-dollar outflow of retail dollars. He said consumers who shop out of town will likely also patronize restaurants on their shopping trips, or possibly stop to see a movie before heading home.

“Before you know it, you’ve spent six, seven hours (out of town) and you’ve dropped hundreds of dollars, of which none of that money is coming to Greenfield,” he said, adding not everybody does that, but many do.

“We at the Greenfield Business Association try to create events for Greenfield to bring people to downtown,” he said. Those include sidewalk sales, holiday events and more.

E-commerce has also posed a challenge for local retailers.

As more consumers shop online, the brick-and-mortar businesses that will continue to thrive are those that offer face-to-face services, like hair and nail salons, argues John Lunt, the mayor’s assistant for special projects.

“All of those are things you need a local contact for. You can’t get your nails done over the internet. You can’t get your hair cut over the internet,” Lunt said. “That’s a natural shift that has happened in towns as things have changed and people have gotten goods from farther away. Services have risen as a local percentage of businesses.”

John Howland, president of Greenfield Savings Bank, echoed Lunt, saying the downtown is absolutely moving in the direction of services and health care.

“It’s a challenge, it’s tough for retailers out there,” he said.

Setting yourselves apart

But there are ways for traditional retailers to compete, Lunt and Howland agreed. For example, Howland said Greenfield Games on Main Street does a good job of hosting events that bring customers in. On game nights, he said, the store is packed.

“You can’t do that on the internet You can’t have a face-to-face with somebody over the internet, so they do a really good job of differentiating themselves in that regard,” Howland said.

Lunt said the traditional retail stores that are succeeding — not only in Greenfield but across the country — are the ones that find ways to make their offerings unique and market successfully to their local customer base.

“I think services are moving into some areas that retail has already vacated, but I don’t think the services themselves are pushing traditional retail out of downtown. I think retailers here face the same challenges as retailers everywhere — the growth of online retail and big box stores,” he said.

At Wilson’s, O’Neil and former Vice President Tamara Beauregard said the department store has been able to adapt to the changing marketplace by downsizing from four to three floors, and has lowered operating costs by making changes like switching to LED lighting.

Mullins has made similar changes at Magical Child — cutting back on products that only sell a few times a year and switching phone and computer companies to save money. Mullins, who also owns World Eye Bookshop, bought Magical Child from its former owner to save the toy store from closing. But facing declining sales and a rent increase at World Eye’s former Main Street location, she decided to consolidate the two stores into one location earlier this year.

Both Mullins and the heads of Wilson’s said they are able to attract and retain customers by providing a personal touch. At Wilson’s, Beauregard said 13 registers are always staffed; employees carry packages to customers’ cars; and salespeople get to know customers on a personal level.

“I think the only way we can survive is being adaptive and quick-changing and, on the other hand, sticking with our values and being community-oriented, doing the (free gift) wrapping, appreciating our customers. When we say ‘thank you,’ we genuinely mean thank you for coming in, thank you for being part of our day,” Mullins said.

At The Greenfield Gallery on Main Street, the 2-year-old business has found success by doing the same. Co-owner Kate Hunter said the first holiday season the business was open, people came in nearly every day asking if the business offered framing.

The business also sells artwork and offers fine art printing services including film scans, photo restoration and art reproduction.

“We listened to that, so we started doing framing,” Hunter said. “I think that we’re really talking to the customers and what it is they’re wanting and needing in town.”

Anchors important

Ashli Stempel, Precinct 8 town councilor and chairwoman of the town’s Ways and Means Committee, talks up the value of downtown anchors for driving business there.

“We have boutiquey stores and services … boutique, local stores will always continue to do well, but in order for them to succeed, you need to have anchors to drive traffic to the downtown,” she said.

Stempel said she and Lunt have been brainstorming ways to invest in and support those anchors, which include establishments like Hope and Olive restaurant, the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, the Saturday Farmers Market and others.

“The mayor’s idea of bringing in a health care service center downtown is a great idea because people are going to have to go to their appointment, maybe go to lunch and pick up something on their way home,” she said, adding, “We need to spend more time making sure that we have more anchors and not spending so much time complaining about that one little storefront is vacant or that one little shop isn’t open. We have to focus on the bigger ones and then the little ones will profit from that.”

Beauregard said although many retailers have left downtown, one thing that has helped the area is destinations like the post office, the courthouse and the YMCA.

“That’s kept downtown Greenfield alive and vital,” she said.

Cohn said right now, the best thing that’s happening for downtown Greenfield — which he was dead-set against originally — is the Center for Human Development’s plan to open a health center in the former Whitney Hill Antiques building on Main Street.

“They’re bringing 100 high-paying jobs. That’s going to help the restaurants and the shoppers. That’s going to be a big boon for downtown,” he said.

Tomorrow: Downtown as gathering place

 Recorder Staff. Appeared on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, http://www.recorder.com/Downtown-Greenfield-retail-and-services-11633084

 

When Prom Becomes a Life-Changing Experience

Mission Moment

For typical high school students, high school prom is an expected rite of passage, but that wasn’t the case with two young ladies who live in our community. Going to prom was something both of them dreamed about, but neither thought it could ever happen because of their housing situation.

One of the girls lives with her mother. The other has no mother or father, so she lives with her aunt and three cousins. Both girls currently live in diversion shelter housing, part of a CHD program that recognizes it is more effective—and more cost-effective—to divert families from shelter in the first place than it is to get them out of shelter once they are there.

These two young ladies come from different worlds. They live in different towns and went to different high schools. Their proms were on different weekends. But thanks to CHD, they have something wonderful in common: they went to prom!

How did the topic of prom even come up? It was just something each girl mentioned during a regular discussion with CHD staff. “When I was checking in with the girls, each separately brought up prom during our conversation,” said Jessica Moynahan, Children Service Coordinator for CHD Diversion Shelter and Housing Program. “It was clear to me that neither saw prom as a possibility, so I asked, is this something you want to be part of? They both said yes.”

Jessica started to think about what would need to happen for these girls to attend their proms. “Mostly they’d need a dress and shoes and transportation,” she thought. “I started to realize that it could happen—so I set out to make it happen. I went to Jane Banks, our director, and pitched my idea to her. She was on board right away. The staff helped, too. Together we made it possible for each of these girls to get her dress, shoes, make up, accessories, hair, corsages, and even her prom ticket.”

For one of these girls, who is originally from Haiti, it had been her dream to attend prom. “We spoiled her and it was well deserved,” Jessica explained. “This is a girl who had experienced bullying in school, but she persevered. Her courage and resilience are amazing. The staff at CHD looks at her with such admiration. Despite her difficult circumstances and the trauma she experienced, she is always kind to others and possesses an amazing spirit.”

CHD staff transported the girl to her high school for Promenade, a pre-prom event. One by one, they walk proudly across the school stage for parents, teachers and administrators to admire. It’s a time to show off, honestly, and everyone loves it. Staff also delivered her aunt and three cousins, who were also dressed up. After Promenade, staff took the girl to prom and delivered her safely inside. She walked into the venue with her head held high. She looked absolutely stunning.

Jessica recalled what happened later, when she went to pick up the girl and bring her back to the CHD diversion shelter housing site. “The school principal noticed me and motioned for me to come quickly,” Jessica said. “I asked, ‘What is it? What’s going on?’ and the principal replied, ‘Something wonderful!’ I looked and there was she was, out on the dance floor dancing and smiling and beaming. People are still talking at school about how beautiful she looked that night. This was an experience that changed her. CHD says our work is positively life changing. Well, this was a perfect example. She was very thankful to be able to go to prom and felt ‘very blessed’ to use her own words.”

I said this was a story about two girls who went to prom. The other girl lived in shelter with her mother. She also mentioned to Jessica that she dreamed about going to prom, but really only imagined it. So together with CHD staff, Jessica worked to make that happen. As a way to help improve the bond between this girl and her mother, CHD got the bus passes so the two could spend time together outside of shelter and shop for prom essentials. They were able to get everything she needed.

A few days following the prom, Jessica talked to the girl’s mom. She said her daughter arrived home dancing and laughing and telling stories about what a great experience she had. Both the girl and her mom texted Jessica to express their thanks. “The prom was a fun experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity and for the help from CHD that gave me great memories,” the girl’s text read. The girl and her mom also thanked Jessica in person, next time they saw her.

“Despite their temporary situations, these young ladies were able to participate in an event that is meaningful to practically every teen,” said Moynahan. “Prom happens once in a lifetime and should not be missed—and it wasn’t missed because CHD ensured these kids had what they needed to take part in this time-honored rite of passage. Can you imagine the impact not going would have had on these kids who already are experiencing emotional distress because of their housing situation?”

Fortunately, we don’t need to image that. Instead, we can celebrate two girls and their positively life changing experience.

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight, but Growth Can Fuel Change

Over at Goodwin House in Chicopee, there’s a lot of growth happening. Last May, CHD opened this new residential treatment program for boys ages 13-17 struggling with substance use disorder. Like any new endeavor, the program is putting down roots. The clinicians and other staff are learning what works, finding their groove, and doing their best to serve the boys and families in the program. (Only the boys reside at Goodwin House, but their families are directly involved and absolutely part of the program.)

The boys at Goodwin House are still in early recovery, but all are showing signs of positive growth. Some of them have been in residence for several weeks. For them, the reasons why they’re here—and the ways they can continue to move forward—are making sense to them. Because of their progress, they are able to take on some responsibility as role models or peer mentors to the boys who are just arriving at Goodwin House.

As a way to get the residents to make a personal investment in the program and give something back, the boys were given a job to do: plant a garden. “There are all kinds of therapeutic reasons why planting a garden can be valuable for boys in residential treatment,” said Chantal Silloway, M.A., LADC 1, Program Director for CHD Goodwin House. “Being able to plant something living, to see it grow and change, and even eat the produce at end of season, helps the boys realize that things change. They see for themselves that they have skills they can use to give back and make positive change happen. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, but with nurturing it can happen.”

All eight boys currently in residence at Goodwin House were involved with the garden project in some capacity. Some raked, tilled ground and removed rocks to prepare the area. Others built the garden boxes. They all put dirt and compost in the boxes and put the plants in the ground. The residents will continue to till that area, and this fall they will not only harvest some produce but also put in some perennials that will come back year to year, long after they have left Goodwin House.

All of the boys at Goodwin House are attending school at Liberty Academy in Springfield. “It’s a great model,” said Silloway. “Liberty Academy has space for up to 50 kids and we are the first residential program to send all our kids to one school. Goodwin House is the only male program in the state for our age group and we’re proud to be innovating in so many ways.”

The metaphors for planting and growth and harvest are plentiful—and applicable to the good things happening at Goodwin House. Here’s another example. The boys spend time together in the Group Room, where they’re supportive and accountable to one another. On the wall in that room they are painting a tree where each boy can paint his name on one of the leaves. “They realize it’ll be a message from them for the young men who arrive after they have left Goodwin House,” said Silloway. “The idea is that they can leave a positive mark—their name, their identity—on the tree that everyone who comes in will see. Each name is a sign of growth and hope to the next youth who comes in.”

Things can grow strong and healthy. Things can change for the better. And so can people. You just need to plant a few seeds.

 

Take a virtual tour of the Goodwin House

Relaxation and Bonding through Infant Massage

Several sets of parents arrive at CHD’s Early Intervention playroom, all carrying their babies. The grownups sit down on the mat and position the babies on their backs, heads resting on a pillow. Some little ones are fidgety and others quiet, but there is a sense of anticipation among them. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been attending this class and have learned what comes next: infant massage.

“Infant massage class is an opportunity to educate new parents about good parenting,” said Cindy Napoli, Early Intervention Program Supervisor for CHD. Napoli, an Occupational Therapist Registered/Licensed (MOTR/L), Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant (LPTA), and Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM), has been actively involved in designing and delivering a new program centered on infant massage for babies enrolled in CHD’s Early Intervention Program.

“Infant massage is intended to enhance parent-infant interaction and promote healthy growth and development,” Napoli explained. “It’s different than adult massage where the massaged participant is passive. We don’t want to the baby to zone out. We want the baby to be in active-alert state so they are more likely to be receptive, calm, and quiet. That helps them interact well with their parents. The act of infant massage helps parents and babies to relax and bond. It’s all about loving touch to nurture the baby. The connections you make with your child through infant massage are great moments in parenting.”

Infant massage isn’t new. It’s been practiced for centuries in many cultures around the world, including some in India, China and South America. According to Dr. Steve Berman, past-president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the real potential of infant massage is that it sets up a dynamic between the parent and child that promotes conversing, communication and encouragement.

With babies alert and on their backs, parents in the class begin the massage with open resting hands. “This is a way parents ask permission to touch their baby,” Napoli explained. “That helps a parent and baby to build trust. You can tell if they’re ready and receptive from the baby’s gaze, facial expressions, posture, and other non-verbal or pre-verbal expressions of comfort or distress.”

One of the young ones began to coo in response to his father’s touch. “When babies are talking to you, talk back,” Napoli advised. “They may not have language skills yet but they’re trying to tell you something, so meet them where they are at. Label the body parts your touching, tell them what you’re doing to their arms, fingers, and legs. They learn to talk by listening to you, so talk to them.”

Parents raise their baby’s arm and rub beneath in gentle steps. This is called a pit stop and helps to stimulate glands under the arms. Next parents do wrist circles and hug-and-glide along their baby’s arms, followed by finger rolls, where parents softly squeeze their baby’s fingers and roll them side to side. They finish each arm with Swedish massage to return blood back to the body. “Whatever we take out to the hands, we bring back to the heart,” Napoli said.

Massaging the baby’s stomach can stimulate the bowels and help with constipation. The bottom of each foot has many nerve cells and a gentle massage there can be stimulating. Holding the baby’s feet, parents can alternate leg movement by bending the baby’s knee to create a pumping motion like riding a bicycle.

Throughout the massage, a parent maintains continual touch with the infant. “Let your baby know you are still in contact by repositioning your hand in a way that maintains touch. When you’re done, finish up with integration, a gentle rub from top to bottom that lets your baby know you’re done.”

Every parent who comes to infant massage class has a child enrolled in Early Intervention, typically to address a developmental delay. As a result, the sessions also function as parent support groups so parents can talk to each other about what they are experiencing and how they’re using infant massage at home. “My son has learned what’s coming next when I do resting hands,” said a father in the class. “Now that it’s part of his routine, he slows down and starts to relax because he likes the attention.”  One of the mothers said, “We do massage when he’s fussy and he likes it, but we’re finding it’s most beneficial when he has constipation.”

An infant crying can really tick off parents—especially inexperienced parents—and that can fuel a downward spiral that leads to parents abusing their child. According to Foundation for Healthy Family Living (www.healthfamily.org), studies show that infant massage classes can dramatically reduce the incidence of child abuse. For example, in 1997 an infant massage program was taught by social service staff in Douglas County, Oregon, to families at risk of abuse. During the project year, confirmed cases of abuse dropped from 104 to 15.

Studies on infant massage published in numerous medical journals have identified a range of benefits for babies, including:

  • Improved interaction with family
  • Stress reduction
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Enhanced cognition and motor development
  • Increased weight gain for premature babies
  • Improved self-regulation for fussy or colicky babies
  • Enhanced comfort for babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Also cited are benefits for parents:

  • Better understanding and response to baby’s cues
  • Improved techniques to comfort, calm, and soothe baby
  • Additional way to provide close, nurturing contact
  • Relief from postpartum depression
  • Natural and pleasant method to bond with baby
  • Increased confidence in their ability to care for baby

Overall, babies who get a daily rubdown tend to sleep better, grow faster and be less fussy. As a result, their parents tend to be more relaxed and rested, too. Parents can get to know their babies better and build a foundation for communication that continues long after infancy ends.

Napoli ends each infant massage class with a poem. On this day it’s “If You Give a MOM a Cookie,” a clever twist on the famous children’s story “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. The message: no matter how prepared you think you are as a parent, something will get in the way, so just deal with one thing at a time and keep moving forward.

For families with a child enrolled in CHD Early Intervention, the infant massage program is included at no cost. Members of the community can be involved as space permits. There is a referral process (immunization records, etc.), but a doctor’s note is not required.

“Infant massage is about the attention you provide in that moment,” said Napoli. “Your baby will not likely remember these interactions, but it means so much to them in the moment and the bond you form and develop will improve your long-term relationship. It’s never too early to start good, engaged parenting.”

To learn more about Infant Massage, go to http://infantmassageusa.org/

To learn more about the Infant Massage program at CHD Early Intervention, call 413-739-3954

On Being a Good Neighbor

Recently, a very close friend of our family passed away. Though I miss her terribly, she lived a good, long life and her sunny outlook touched so many people. As I thought about the happy times we had shared, I realized that the care and support we had given her had helped her to remain independent and live on her own, even as she grew old. She was a neighbor and my family just did what good neighbors do. She was also more than helpful to me and our children. I remember many a day calling her in a panic because I was leaving work later than I should have and was going to miss the bus. Nothing worse than the parent “walk of shame” into school to retrieve your children who were brought back to school because there wasn’t a parent or caring adult there to greet them. I would simply call and off she’d run to the bus stop to make sure that our children were not only safe, but had a warm hug, an endearing conversation and usually a snack with a cold glass of milk at the end of their school day. As she aged, the calls from across the street became more frequent: jars that needed opening, unfamiliar sounds in the night and a friendly “check in” to break up the day. In her final days of life she had limited ability to leave the house so those calls brought us both moments of laughter. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate to have a natural support system of family, friends or neighbors in their lives, but access to the right kinds and levels of support can enable people, especially those facing mental health challenges, to live as independently as they can.

Services to help people facing mental health challenges to live as independently as possible can be provided through a state-funded program of Community Based Flexible Supports. As the name implies, Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) are both community based and flexible enough to address individual needs. CBFS include services such as:

  • Individual counseling and symptom management
  • Group therapy
  • Medication administration and monitoring
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Help to pay bills, manage money and gain financial independence
  • Assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs) such as food shopping and doing laundry
  • Access to employment and vocational training

 

Eligibility to enter CBFS is made by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and all services are referral-based. Given that DMH funds CBSF services, they select and contract with qualified providers, including CHD, to manage the delivery of those services appropriately. DMH conducts ongoing oversight to ensure that services consistently meet program requirements and individual needs.

“People facing mental health challenges have periods of wellness and periods of stress in their life,” explains my colleague Katherine M. Cook, LICSW, Vice President Adult Mental Health/Substance Use for CHD. “Through CBFS, services are provided to people based on where they are on that continuum. Among the CBFS services provided by CHD is supported housing in non-institutional, community settings.”

For example, CHD collaborates with the Chicopee Housing Authority in the Intensive Supported Apartment Program. People receiving services live in a cluster of apartments and are seen by support staff every day. In this setting many people can be successful without the need for elevated services in institutional settings. And that’s good, because who wants to live in an institution when they can live at home? 

“CBFS helps give people considerable independence along with structure and professional guidance that helps them become and remain stable,” said Cook. “CHD currently provides Community Based Flexible Supports to 837 people living with mental health challenges or lived experience. Of those people, about 123 live in one of 25 licensed group residences where they can receive services and contribute to their community.”

My neighbor did not have mental health challenges, but our relationship and her passing had given me pause as I thought about how important that support to her was, and how important the supports we give to people in our community through CBFS is. Sometimes, what a person needs most of all is a good neighbor. I sure had one. And I miss her.

If you would like to learn more about CHD’s CBFS program, pay CHD.org a visit or send me an email at klee@chd.org.