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‘Gateway to empowerment’

For five years, Spirit Center has helped people deal with their mental health problems in a quiet hilltop home in Grass Valley.

But the drop-in center is in jeopardy of being forced to relocate unless it can raise $900,000 by next May to buy the house and five acres of adjacent land for a permanent home. The Spirit Center house, looking down on Glenbrook Basin, is now being rented inexpensively.

The money also could be used to build a crisis center on the site to avert hospitalization and the need to house mental-health patients who are in transition.



“This is an opportunity we can’t afford to miss,” said Lily Marie, a Spirit co-founder.

“The need for mental health services is constant and growing, and we’re putting forward practical, cost-effective solutions for mental health.”




To help launch the effort, Spirit Center is kicking off a major fundraising campaign at 6 p.m. Friday night at its annual Spirit Fest at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. Numerous local musical acts will be featured and food will be offered.

Although Spirit expects to receive money in coming years from the new state Mental Health Services Act funds for buying the house, it probably wouldn’t be received by May 15, the deadline for converting the lease to ownership, Marie said.

“We’re the gateway to empowerment for people, and we’re working to open the door permanently to Spirit Center to expand services to 24-7,” Marie said. “We’re asking people to invest in their community and transform the lives of citizens.”

People who have benefitted from the Spirit Center include Guy Kerr and David Lynott. Both men suffered from mental problems until Spirit’s calm peer counseling gave them the skills to cope.

Lynott is now a peer counselor, and Kerr is a program coordinator.

“People respond well to our environment,” Lynott said. “It’s a home ” not a sterile, hospital environment. It makes recovery easier.”

He added, “I believe in this place. It helps people get in touch with who they are.”

Kerr had expeienced several treatment regimens before Spirit Center helped him.

“It stabilized me, and I was able to perform more and more tasks as I went along,” Kerr said. “It was a balancing point for me.”

Donations to buy the building and land are tax deductible and will help Spirit attract grants and foundation gifts as well, Marie said.

“It’s important we get community matching funds,” she said. “Every grantor wants to see that.”

Spirit will continue to teach mental health patients to become independent, get jobs and meld into society. But the effort will be struck hard if the home’s current owners put the house back up on the market, Marie said.

Although mental health patients can receive services from the county, Spirit Center is the only place they can walk into from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday without an appointment.

“We act as a safety net for people who fall through the cracks,” Marie said. “We act as a springboard. We work with people to be productive citizens.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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