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New NRCIL program adding to Lewis County event calendars

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LOWVILLE — A new Northern Regional Center for Independent Living program is adding plenty of events to community calendars in Lewis County.

“What people ask for, I’ve been giving them,” said Theresa M. Decker, outreach coordinator of the Community Connections program, which was initiated over the summer. “We’re just trying to get the community involved.”

The goal is to hold at least two events per month in Lowville and one apiece in Harrisville and Lyons Falls, where NRCIL operates satellite offices, Ms. Decker said. “But I’ve already got more than that planned,” she said.

Through discussions with a newly formed advisory committee and conversations with people throughout the county, arts and crafts and exercise-related events, in particular, were suggested, Ms. Decker said.

That has led to a series of adult painting classes at Lowville Free Library on Dayan Street, with plans for basket weaving, pottery, creative writing, tai chi and yoga classes in the works, she said.

A couponing class also was quite popular and probably will be continued at different locations, and the idea of a walking club has been discussed, Ms. Decker said.

“The community wants stuff to do,” she said.

Some of the events, such as the art classes, require admission fees, but program participants may be eligible for partial or full coverage of that expense.

The Community Connections program, designed to help Lewis County residents with mental illness and reintegrate them into the community, is being funded through a $250,000-per-year grant from the state Office of Mental Health. Lewis is one of 10 counties in the state to receive funding for such a recovery program.

The program’s focus is on building connections between people with mental illnesses and the community through social events and informal gatherings, as illnesses such as depression can easily isolate people.

“We want to overcome the barriers and get rid of the stigma,” Ms. Decker said.

That will require a good mix of both consumers and non-consumers, so organizers are trying to plan activities that will attract a broad range of people, she said.

While the program’s stated goal is to aid mental health, Ms. Decker said, she hopes it will gain a reputation for providing quality activities for the entire community.

“We want to be a household name, she said.

To that end, Community Connections is planning a monthly insert in the Journal and Republican, which also is owned and operated by the Johnson Newspaper Corp., that will list upcoming events throughout the county, Ms. Decker said.

Events also are listed on NRCIL’s website and Facebook page, as well as on the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce website, she said.

Anyone with questions or comments on the program can call Ms. Decker at the Lowville NRCIL office at 376-8696 or send an email to theresad@nrcil.net.

“I’m open to all ideas and looking for fresh comments,” she said.

Community Connections is holding a contest to design a logo to represent the new program. It is open to all high school students ages 15 and up in participating schools, with the deadline set for Wednesday.

First prize is a $50 gift certificate to Salmon Run Mall in Watertown.

The winning logo must be an original piece, designed or created using any medium the student chooses. However, it must be able to be scanned, photographed or printed, as it will be used in promotional and informational materials for the program.

Contest submissions must be nonoffensive and represent the mission of the Community Connection’s fully inclusive and open philosophy.

All questions on the contest are to be directed to the program’s transition facilitator, Benjamin Fowler, by calling 537-5021 or emailing benf@nrcil.net.

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