ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- 44 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. It can be debilitating and leave them feeling isolated, but a non-profit is making St. Louis by fostering a healing community.

The Independence Center is a community-based rehabilitation program for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses in the St. Louis area. Staff serve about 1,300 people in six facilities including a clinic where new clients can be treated and find medicines that work best for them.

"It's really about building that community building that support structure around somebody that's struggling," Abby Berger with the Independence Center said.

What really makes the Independence Center stand out is the Clubhouse. It's the center's hub for job training and community programs. The Clubhouse is home to a thrift store, flower shop, full-service kitchen and more.

Each is run by a resident, for many it's how they earn money, and get back into the workforce. Lisa Rodgers works the snack bar. Since 2006, she's has been fighting an internal battle.

"It was heart-breaking to see everything falling apart," Lisa Rodgers remembered. "I just couldn't get up every morning. I just wanted to stay asleep."

In 2015, doctors diagnosed her with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. She began treatment, but as she learned, medicine can only do so much.

"I didn't want to interact with people because I was scared they wouldn't accept me."

Lisa said she needed more than what her medicine was able to do, she needed a place she felt safe and that's when she found The Independence Center.

"It's like my second home. I was able to get my strength back, my courage to come every day, and get out of bed, and not just sit at home and be by myself."

The Independence Center turns no one away. Many insurances will help cover cost, and if that isn’t an option, staff will work with you to help pay. In order to keep serving, the center relies on donations.

"All of the money that we've raised through Dancing goes directly back into our programs and services to pay for people who don't have funding otherwise," Berger said.

Dancing With the Stars St. Louis is the center's biggest fundraiser of the year, it keeps the lights on and programs running.

Usually, it's corporate sponsors and civic leaders who are paired with a professional dancer competing and doing the money raising, but this year, Ally Nichols is joining the competition.

Ally's mom Lisa said the family was approached after last year's event, "they said let Ally dance and you can raise the money. So we sat her down and said 'Ally would you want to do that,' and she said 'yes I do because I have moves.'"

Ally has Down Syndrome which is a developmental disability, not a mental disorder so she can't be part of the Independence Center.

However, her family knows how important the center is and has been going to the Dancing With the Stars events for years.

Now that Lisa's got her groove back, she too is shining a light on the place giving her and other's in St. Louis a shimmering shot at independence.

"No matter how hard it is, you will come through," Rodgers said.

At this year's Dancing with the Stars St. Louis a total of $505,537 were raised. Ally won the Dancing MVP award raising $133,770.

If you or someone you know is living with a mental illness, and would benefit from the community at the Independence Center you can find more information here.

https://www.independencecenter.org/

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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