As you walk into the Mountain Community Wellness Center, food can be smelled cooking on the stove and brilliant colored art lines the walls -- walls that have become a second home to those who frequent the wellness center.
It's been two and-a-half years since the wellness center opened off Crane Valley Road (426) and since then it's offered help and encouragement to a number of Mountain Area residents by offering classes on everything from relationships and anxiety to denial and relapse recovery. However the center offers more than just classes, it also offers hope, friendship and laughter according to those who have utilized its services.
"It's like a family," Charlene Rice said. "We genuinely all care about each other."
Rice began going to the center just because she heard she could do her laundry there and, being a single mother, finances were tight.
"When I came I was treated so special and it was so welcoming," Rice said. "Thank God this place is here."
After attending the center for a while, Rice, an artist, was hired to teach creative expression.
"I think the best thing is how our level of creativity is in the forefront," Rice said. "Creatively we're meeting the needs of the people and the staff is awesome. They're amazing. They are on cutting edge of creatively helping out the community with resources we have."
Classes are free and open to the public without any type of referral.
"People think it costs something but it's really their tax dollars at work," Rice said. "This place is for them (the public) and we're all here with open arms to welcome the community."
Jenny Becker, clinical supervisor for Behavioral Health Services, said she wants more people to know about the services the center offers because not many people seem to know about it.
"A lady came in recently that had no idea we were here," Becker said.
All it takes to attend classes is filling out a free membership application. Rice said classes are "fun, creative and inspiring." People can stay for one class or stay all day and attend all classes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Rice said the classes and instructors meet the need of each person individually without clumping them all together because every person needs something different.
"The staff is extremely attentive to everyone and their needs and they are very educated in their field," Rice said. "If you're having a crisis, there's someone you can talk to."
Classes are for open discussion and journaling. The center also uses the Wellness Recovery Action Plan.
"Everyone is recovering from something whether it's loss of a home, a car, their mind -- a lot of people are in despair from the economy," Rice said. "When they come here they can see they're not alone and everyone is in a state of recovery. It's for daily maintenance and there's lots of laughter and hope."
Kenneth Nadelman, who has been attending classes at the Wellness Center since October, was reluctant to go there but finally did and is happy he made that choice.
"This is a great place but really wish it could be open more days," Nadelman said. "It gets you out of the house and keeps you from doing negative things you'd otherwise do."
The center will be expanding from two to three days in July and will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Rice hopes that someday the center can be open even more days.
"They (people) need comfort, care, attentiveness and peace Monday through Friday," she said.
The center offers more than just classes. They also have computers so people can come in and work on their resumes. There is also a food pantry for emergencies and in the summer they have a garden. They even go out as groups sometimes to the movies or on a picnic at the lake. By attending classes, people can also earn "mountain bucks." Their "bucks" can be used to purchase essentials such as soap and shampoo.
A homemade meal is also cooked every Thursday and is free to those who attend a class.
"Anyone can come and get a hot cup of coffee and a meal with no strings attached," Rice said.
Details: (559) 683-4809. The center is located at 49774 Road 426, Suite D.