The Virtue Center looks to expand outreach with new facility

Jeff Elkins, The Norman Transcript, Okla.
·3 min read

May 4—A Norman nonprofit is fundraising to build a new facility in an attempt to create a more comforting environment to those who seek their services.

The Virtue Center offers help for individuals and families affected by alcohol, drugs and other behaviors by providing outpatient addiction and co-existing mental health services.

The new 14,486-square-foot facility The Virtue Center hopes to build would be located off 24th Avenue SW and Wilcox Drive, will have an education room, healing garden, community room, spacious reception and waiting area, client lounge and outdoor sanctuary. The project is estimated to cost $3.89 million.

Teresa Collado, executive director at The Virtue Center, said providing a space with an inviting aesthetic is a crucial step in creating an environment where people feel comfortable opening up about sensitive issues.

"Intensive outpatient therapy is nine hours a week, three hour sessions at a time, so they're coming here to spend a lot of time talking about some really difficult things," Collado said.

She said many of the individuals who use the center's services are required to be there, but she hopes the new facility will create a space where more people reach out on their own.

The new building will be entirely ADA compliant, a standard that would take $2 million to reach through renovations of the center's current facility.

The board of directors, campaign executive committee and campaign cabinet looked at renovating the current facility before deciding to design a new building.

"We looked at renovating the building, but because everything has been rigged, this is before ADA, before the city of Norman had all of these requirements, so we decided we have to look at something different because it's really not meeting our needs," Collado said.

Capital campaign chair Carol Bauman said client comfort is especially important for individuals who have dealt with trauma.

"One client got upstairs and was like, 'Am I in trouble?' because it just gives off that vibe like you've done something wrong," Bauman said.

Collado said the environment at the Wilcox Drive location will match the services through a trauma-informed design.

Collado said constructing an emotional safe space where one can open up and avoid emotional triggers will result in more effective therapy.

"When we talk to our clients, safety is number one, and that's not only physical, but emotional safety that they look for," Collado said. "Especially when a person has experienced trauma, that is so important in the journey to get more healthy."

Collado said the center's new location will equate to more individuals reaching out for help due to increased visibility.

"You can get outpatient help and don't need to go to inpatient treatment and be away from your family and job," Collado said.

Collado said if the Virtue Center raises around $144,000 before the end of May, it will be eligible to apply for a Mabee Foundation grant that would expedite the fundraising process.

Bauman said that fundraising throughout the month will consist of tapping into resources, businesses and individuals that were previously unaware of The Virtue Center.

She said she hopes the campaign project will play a role in removing the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health.

"I think the new building will reflect that nicely," Bauman said.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at Jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.