An organization supported by the Community Counseling Center - aimed at helping adults find counseling and students find their artistic side - is going into its second year.
Program manager and supervisor of the conNEXTion Community Resource Center, Soni Lloyd says the organization emphasizes mental health and community well-being, but has a simple statement that sums up their mission: “We’re here to help folks with whatever is next.”
Lloyd’s been in the field for six years, and has worked for many social service agencies throughout the community. She says getting people help with mental illness is the key to making sure they can maintain their personal lives, homes, and jobs. While other organizations may provide assistance in those areas, conNEXTtion helps to form a basis for individuals and families.
Since one of their biggest barriers in the community is transportation, everything is done on-site at their location on Sprigg Street.
In addition to providing counseling services, the center also has a creative arts, learning, and literacy program sponsored by the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau, which will start up with the fall semester.
Lloyd has been with conNEXTion since the beginning, and says that working with kids is her favorite part, “because our kids are our future.”
Over the past year, many middle school students attended classes at the center, according to former Rotary president, Robert Gifford. He also says their efforts are complementary to the things students learn in school.
“Having been in arts education all my life, one of the things we work for is the whole child - trying to educate the whole child,” Gifford says. “Make sure they get exposure to a lot of things, because that enhances their learning.”
Lloyd says conNEXTion can make a real difference in childrens’ futures if they focus in on their gifts.
“If you can pull out those gifts and those talents... you can redirect a child’s life,” Lloyd says. “Where they don’t have to follow after the patterns they see set before them when they go home or in their neighborhoods.”
Gifford says although their location in the city is near opportunities for creative expression at Southeast’s River Campus, the costs of their services have built up almost an “invisible wall” that keeps the community from connecting. He hopes to break down this barrier by bringing instructors from the campus to the conEXTion center. The first action they’ve taken is developing a drumming class.
Gifford says he believes they are already looking to expand. At the same time, the Cape Girardeau Police Department plans to establish a satellite officer in the building, who Gifford says will be stopping in periodically.
Having observed the way things didn’t happen overnight when working on the project, Gifford says he is impressed with all that the center has managed to accomplish in the past year.
Although they focus mainly on the arts, Lloyd says the functions of conNEXTion vary.
“We help with anything,” she says. However, “we’re not a monetary source.”