May is Mental Health Awareness Month — what better time to celebrate a counseling center on the most visible corner in town.
The Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce hosted business leaders and neighbors for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, May 12, at Inspire Counseling Center, 400 Green Bay Road, in Kenilworth.
Inspire is housed in the long-vacant, wraparound storefront at Park Avenue and Green Bay Road. The space features double doors at the entry and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows along each wing.
The bright and unhidden location send an important message, said Lauren Schifferdecker, Inspire’s founder.
“It was kind of a step of courage for me and the community to open a counseling center in a place that is so highly visible,” she said. “Typically, counseling centers are tucked away in places where you are more anonymous. … We opened in a space where people can see you coming and going.
“It is really a step toward society welcoming mental health and valuing and acknowledging it and busting the stigma. So we’re not hiding coming in to therapy, we’re proud of taking care of ourselves.”
The space is Inspire’s second location. The six-year-old business began in a small office in Northbrook, before expanding to 18 therapists, Schifferdecker said.
During the pandemic, she noticed many therapy practices were losing office space to downsize or go virtual. She did the opposite.
“I decided I was going to go look for office space, kind of like the fish upstream,” Schifferdecker said. “… I looked high and wide and when I found this space, it sort of found me. … This space felt like home right away.”
Filling the prize Kenilworth space means a lot to the Village as well.
Kenilworth Village President-elect Cecily Kaz, who will be sworn in Monday, May 17, was on hand to welcome Inspire to the neighborhood.
While the Village helped promote the empty space, it was property owner — Jim Nash of Farnsworth-Hill — who found the right fit. Kaz celebrated the choice.
“We’ve highlighted mental health over this past year,” she said. “It’s not something to be afraid of and this really shows we’re supporting our residents in the wake of a challenging year.”
So far Schifferdecker said the community has welcomed Inspire with open arms. Three of Inspire’s therapists who started in Kenilworth in late April already have full schedules.
“We’re honored and humbled to be here,” Schifferdecker said. “We come here with a serving towel over our hands. We want to serve the community, anything we can do to make people happy.”
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