Service…it’s who we are!

Service…it’s who we are!

How did we end up in downtown Orlando, in the oppressive heat during the middle of a pandemic?

Well.  Phenix Counseling was founded with a commitment to service.  While we recognize the value of the knowledge and skill we bring to the table, expecting that the worker is worthy of their wage, we have always been mindful of the fact that access to quality mental health care is a major problem.  In response, Phenix committed to funneling 10% of profits into a scholarship fund to provide care to those who cannot afford it.  Our regular fees were set to make services accessible to working individuals and in the future, student interns will be acquired to provide quality care for even less.  Additionally, every Phenix counselor always maintains one community client who pays only what they can afford – as their way of giving back.  However, when COVID blasted on to the scene a mere three months after the group practice launch, our grand philanthropy plans had to be set aside as the financial focus became simply survival.  Still….our hearts broke as we looked around at the fallout and wondered what we could do to be there for our community.  Despite our own personal financial fears, all three of us agreed to set aside our fees for one week (March 8th – 14th) to go toward a special COVID fund that would be utilized to assist community recovery once the stay at home order was lifted.  Justin had visions of handing out food…I thought perhaps gas cards to help folks drive back to work after prolonged furlough.  As everyone knows, things have not been that simple.  Here it is July and the virus has not lifted.  In fact, the numbers are worse than ever.  That magical moment of “getting back to normal” has not arrived.  I began to ponder what we should do with the money we had earmarked.

It was during that questioning when I came across this video:

I knew Eric!  He was the sweet young man who had contacted me a couple of weeks before I left for Greece last year because he wanted to surprise my student with a proposal 🙂 .  I also knew of the organization he led and the good work they did.  Something clicked.  Here was a mission we could be confident supporting.  We are holistic providers; we don’t just attend to our clients’ mental health.  We recognize that everything is connected: body, soul, spirit.  That’s why Justin does adventure therapy which provides physical challenges, Caitlin utilizes dance and I am currently finishing up a certification in yoga.  What better alignment with our commitment than to contribute to the basic physical needs which directly affect a person’s mental and emotional health?  I brought the idea to the team and they enthusiastically agreed…but I felt convicted that this wasn’t just to be a monetary thing.  Justin had challenged us from the very beginning to be “boots on the ground” in our community and SALT was calling out for volunteers.  So, with no small amount of discomfort, we signed up to serve.  We have minimized excursions and worn masks consistently throughout the debates.  It was intimidating to consider serving a population who could reasonably be expected to have COVID exposure.  But if everyone was hindered by that concern, then who would serve?  How would they get the care they so desperately needed?  Once again, our decision to go fully virtual was a blessing as we could confidently take on this mission without the concern that our clients might be negatively impacted.

That’s how we ended up in the Florida heat on July 5th, organizing clothes for handing out to friends (what SALT calls the folks living in homelessness who show up), taking requests for clothing needs/sizes, talking with these friends and managing the inevitable conflicts brought on by heat and emotional/mental distress.   I cannot recommend this mission enough!  It is sobering to think about how exhausting it was to handle four hours of serving downtown while our new friends live in its elements

Therapy is an investment.  For many, it is an investment made with sacrifice.  We think it is important for Phenix friends to know that when you invest in your health with us, not only do you (and the loved ones connected to you) benefit, but your community benefits as well through our commitment to pay it forward!

If you would like to follow our lead, SALT is always in need of volunteers.  You need no special skill or talent (though barbers/hairstylists are sorely needed)…just a willingness to show love.  If you want to be of help but have health vulnerabilities – consider preparing lunch for the friends and volunteers and simply dropping it off on one of the service days.

Here’s the link for info about volunteering

Here’s the link for info about providing a meal