"Welcome," is the greeting when one enters the community room at the Outreach Center in Cloquet.
An open house was held at the center to celebrate its 20th anniversary on October 24.
"In 1992 a small group of Carlton County mental health consumers got together and started talking about the benefits of having a place to gather and get support from one another," it was stated in a written history of the center.
One of those founders was Roxanne Proulx.
"Six or seven of us met and talked about needing a place to go where we could feel at home and feel safe," she said. "That was better than sitting at home and being lonely."
"We had to find a place to meet, and found one on the other end of town. Not many came at first but more came as the word spread."
The history stated that there were major changes taking place in the mental health community in 1994-95.
"The Moose Lake State Hospital was closing and plans were made on how to help successfully integrate people back into the community," the history stated. "The Outreach Center's importance to the community grew as a result.
Consumers found common ground when coming to the center.
"We got a lot of positive feedback from the people that came," said Proulx. "And then we started serving meals, and more people came.
"It's a big benefit to be with other people in similar situations as ours. We can bounce things off of each other and get ideas for problem solving. We can get together with people that understand where we're at because they have been there."
As the center grew, it was moved to several locations over the years. And it continued to expand its services. In 1999 the United Way of Carlton County became a major funder of the Outreach Center, the history stated.
Needing a place for a permanent home and housing for the homeless, the Human Development Center started making plans in 2000 for an apartment building and a common space for the Outreach Center.
Ground was broken on August 28, 2003, and the Outreach Center opened its doors to the public on January 26, 2004.
"We really appreciate our nice building," said Proulx. "We had been so many different places. It's so nice that we finally have a permanent home."
The building houses five one-bedroom apartments for the homeless. And the common room for the center is located just inside of the front entrance.
"We are open to the public," said Ginger Spiess, supervisor of the center. "We served 605 different people last year. We feed between 15 and 80 people twice a week at noon at no charge."
Most of the people that work at the center are volunteers. There are several paid staff, such as Spiess, a cook, dishwasher and a janitor.
"The Sonshine Pantries Board has provided funding for the food," added Spiess. "United Way is a major sponsor. And we receive donations."
The center also helps people to gain employment.
Samantha Miller is one of those people.
During a short program, she told the people in the audience what the center has meant to her.
"When I was going to start being a volunteer here, I was nervous about how I was going to be welcomed," said Samantha. "I knew that I would be joining a tight-knit volunteer group.
"But, after I started coming here, I could feel the love and understanding. I could find an ear to listen to me.
"Now I'm glad that I came here. I have a new family here. I have new friends that understand the challenges after being diagnosed with mental illness. Now I feel more positive about my situation.
"The people at the center helped me find employment. That's something that I've been searching for for a long, long time."
The Outreach Center is located at 24 10th Street in Cloquet. Direction for the center is provided by the Human Development Center Support Program staff. The United Way of Carlton County and Carlton County Human Services continues to support the Outreach Center, as does the community, it was stated in the history.
The center is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Group activities are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m. Bingo is on Mondays at 1 p.m., and the Craft Group meets on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.
Free meals are provided on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:15 to 1 p.m., and refreshments are available at any time.
The center provides employment opportunities and a free resources room, with a library and computer access. A Park Avenue Fitness pass is available.
For more information, call the center at (218) 879-0303.