New center sheds light on services

From The Oregonian, October 25, 1989

A newly renovated center dedicated this week signals a new era for North/Northeast Community Mental Health Inc.

The agency formally opened the Garlington Center , the organization’s main treatment site and administrative headquarters, and about 150 people attended an open house to mark the event. Community officials and center administrators hope that the $600,000 renovation project completed this past summer will allow the center to provide a higher standard of service to its clients.

“People who come here already have problems. They’re already feeling bad,” said Gladys McCoy, chairwoman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. “But to come to this place — clean, bright, airy, with concerned and committed people — is certainly therapeutic in itself.”

The Garlington Center — named for the late Rev. John Garlington and his wife, Yvonne Garlington — is located at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street.

North/Northeast Community Mental Health, a non-profit corporation, provides rehabilitation, community support and crisis services to mentally ill adults and to emotionally disturbed children. In addition to the Garlington Center, North/Northeast Community Mental Health operates a 15-unit apartment complex, a house for crisis respite care and several small group homes.

The agency provides services to nearly 1,700 people a year and has an annual budget of $2.2 million.

The St. Vincent de Paul Rehabilitation Service Inc. owns the building and lot and financed the renovation. North/Northeast Community Mental Health is leasing the building for 10 years

“We have a mission as a community mental health center to serve this area by focusing on the real needs of the people who live here,” said Liam Callen, executive director.

According to Stewart Straus, architect of the renovation, the remodeled building, built in the 1920s, avoids an “institutional” appearance but still maintains privacy.

“It was a very difficult balance making this place appear secure and private, but on the other hand not make it seem too much like a fortress,” Straus said.

To this end, Straus said that the design avoids long corridors with opposing office doors. Instead, office doors are clustered around “mini-lobbies” to break up corridors. Other refinements include skylights, flexible interior arrangements, lamps instead of overhead lighting, and a large central “living room” where clients can relax, talk, or work on crafts offered at the center .

“This new place is better because it is big, spacious and comfortable,” said Gloria Jackson, who has been a client for about one year. “There wasn’t enough room in the old place for activities. Now, we have a place to sit down and have coffee in the mornings.”

She added that clients and staff members helped to paint, decorate and furnish the large common area.

The Garlingtons were killed in an automobile accident in Florida in 1986. John Garlington was pastor of Maranatha Church and a respected figure in the Northeast community and in the city at large, and he and his wife were active in many social concerns in the city.

“John Garlington was a bridge builder. He was a modern-day prophet of our times,” said Joshua Phillips, director of Give Us This Day, a community service organization that provides individual and family counseling.

Speaking outdoors to a crowd of people gathered for the dedication ceremony, Phillips said that the Garlingtons “were the link that could bring people together from all sides, and who knew that one or two people committed could make a difference.”

“He ministered to the poor, the hungry and the homeless,” said Phillips. And as a heavy autumn rain fell from the sky, Phillips added, “and he was the kind of man who would stand out here in the rain to listen to your problems.”