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The Friendship Center is a very welcoming space located in downtown Fort Dodge, Iowa in the lower level of the First Baptist Church at the intersection of First Avenue North and 10th Street. All are welcome to join the folks here for support, fellowship, camaraderie, learning experiences and friendship.
The Friendship Center is a place that focuses on mental health care and prevention. It’s often one of the first stops for someone found with a mental illness in Fort Dodge. But you don’t have to have a mental health diagnosis to be part of the Friendship Center or benefit from the activities. It’s welcome to everyone, according to its director, Randy Hoover.
You do not have to have a mental health diagnosis to come here,” said Hoover, who lives with borderline personality disorder. “It’s a place to share time with people, enjoy yourself and learn things.”
Sometimes that means having a cup of coffee and talking with the group. Other times it’s putting together a puzzle or playing a board game. For some, a game of pool or air hockey provides a nice escape.
It’s all part of the Friendship Center program, “We want people feel comfortable where they are at,” said Hoover, who works alongside his wife, Robin. “We don’t want anybody not getting the help and care that they need just because they are uncomfortable.”
Prevention is a key aspect of the Friendship Center, Hoover said.
“It used to be you had to have a mental health diagnosis to be able to come,” Hoover said. “I believe in being proactive. If we can prevent mental health, why don’t we?”
Jeff Jasper, of Fort Dodge, has been part of the Friendship Center for about three years. It helps him feel like he’s not alone in his mental health fight. “As people come in and we are able to help them, we ourselves get help too because we can bounce ideas off of each other,” Jasper said. “Ideas that maybe I have never tried. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. If you already know what might work for someone else, at least it’s a starting point. Throwing off ideas, you don’t feel like you’re alone out there.”
One question Hoover often asks is what percentage of people are affected by mental health? “It’s 100%,” Hoover said. “Everyone experiences mental health or knows someone who experiences it. ” Hoover added, “For some people, mental health issues are transient and some people it’s permanent.” Hoover reported that 106 people are currently using the services of the Friendship Center. He said for several years that number was down significantly. But in recent years the number has increased significantly. But Hoover said that’s not necessarily because there’s more people with mental health problems than in past years. Part of it is because of the location and the success of the program. “It seems to be growing more and more because that alliance is starting to come into place,” Hoover said. “We get a lot of men from the Beacon (Of Hope Men’s Shelter) that come here. We have had some women come from the YWCA. One from Lotus (Community Project).
Reading and relaxation
Reading, relaxation and quiet areas are available and open to all. Comfortable and inviting areas to sit and talk amongst friends, enjoy a cup of coffee or just get lost in a “favorite” novel. Free WIFI is available throughout the Friendship Center.
We have a game room for board games with maybe every board game ever played! We also offer a game room for Billiards, Foosball, Air Hockey and Darts.
Workshops and Learning
The area for our workshops and learning experiences is just now coming together and promises to be something else. What that turns out to be, time will tell.
“I walked in, someone shook my hand, asked me my name and really cared why I was there, That’s what we do here. We reach out our hand. It may not be the same road, but we’ve been down the road. We can’t do the work for you, but we will be alongside you for some of the route.”
Like everyone everywhere, our world was knocked around a bit in 2020. It seems every day there is another glimmer of hope just over the horizon. Hopefully the vaccines that are coming available will allow us to return to the way things were pre-pandemic. Until then, please know we are looking into ways to stay in communication with you all, whether it’s through posts on our brand spanking new web site, our soon to be world famous Facebook presence or maybe just a text message asking how you are doing. We are working on it.