ST. LOUIS ( -- The Independence Center of St. Louis is a rehabilitation non-profit that works with thousands of people suffering with mental illnesses to help them find and hold onto jobs.

For people living with social anxieties, sometimes holding a job and having to interact with others can be challenging. Having a steady job may be something they've never had.

Up until recently, Claire Flanagan did not have a steady job. 

"I had been put on medication at 17 for bipolar disorder, and was sent out into the world and couldn't figure out between the ages of 17 and 30 why medication alone wasn't making me better," she said.

Flanagan got the cure she was seeking outside of medicine. She became a Clubhouse member at the Independence Center, which partners with close to 100 St. Louis-area businesses, to help place members in part-time and full-time positions. 

The Independence Center helped find Flanagan a full-time job as the front desk attendant at the Sante Fitness Center at the Chase Park Plaza hotel. 

In total, there are 15 full and part-time members of the Independence Center currently working at the Chase Park Plaza in roles, including cleaning services, grounds keepers, kitchen staff and bell hops. 

"The Chase is just such a dignified space to be in. Our members feel proud when they come in here," said Joe Shaffer, a supervisor with the Independence Center.

Shaffer said he comes to the hotel often to check in with each member, mentor them and help them overcome any obstacles they may encounter.

The Chase Park Plaza has been partners with the Independence Center for a little over a year and they say they've seen a lot of success with the program.

"A lot of our employees have no idea that these are members of the Independence Center. They are treated like every other employee and they're just part of our team," said Stephanie Girard, Director of Human Resources for the Chase Park Plaza. 

Flanagan said the job at Sante Fitness Center has not only improved her self esteem, but being in a fitness center has encouraged her to become more active.

"By helping other members take care of themselves both physically and emotionally, I learned how to better take care of my own self," said Flanagan.

To schedule an appointment with the Independence Center, click here.

The Independence Center relies on donations to help pay for medical and psychiatric care for members as well as provide transportation and housing for members who may need it.

To donate to the Independence Center, click here.

The Independence Center partners with close to 100 businesses throughout the St. Louis, including the St. Louis Science Center, Boeing and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. 

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