Regional agency raises money by showcasing those it helps

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LEWISTON — Dressed in a red gown, Melinda McKenzie stood on stage before a crowd of more than 200 people Saturday evening and shared her secret.

The 28-year-old member of the Tri-County Mental Health Services Board of Directors was reading her poem, titled: “The Little Girl.”

McKenzie, of Lewiston, struggles with an eating disorder and depression. She had sought treatment years ago at the nonprofit agency.

She also is a sculptor and poet, who has shared her talents for the past four years in an effort to raise money for the organization that helped her.

“A little girl with eyes so brown; sat in a corner to play on her own,” McKenzie recited into the microphone on stage at the Franco-American Heritage Center.

“When she was 12, she learned to cut. Wow, she had control over what she felt,” she continued.

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The fifth annual “Inspired Voices” event showcased the talents of dozens of people who’ve been helped by the agency and helped raise money for the agency.

At a reception early in the evening, attendees browsed displays of artwork including paintings, handmade jewelry and photography.

Sketches drawn in black marker signed only, Kipster, featured intricately rendered warriors. An inscription with the self-described “Fantasy” drawings read: “Drawing helps me deal with my depression and anxiety. It’s very enjoyable and relaxing to me and also helps me to concentrate and it eases my mind from racing thoughts.”

On stage upstairs, more than a dozen so-called “consumers” of mental health care shared the stage with area professional musicians who performed five musical pieces as an ensemble of singers backed up by instrumentalists.

Those receiving services at the agency read poetry and prose and sang songs, often touching on the problems that brought them to the agency.

Getting validation through their performances is part of the treatment, said Tina Pelletier Clark, director of development and community relations.

The agency raised about $22,000 through sponsorships, Clark said. Last year, it cleared about $15,000 at the box office. She said the agency hoped to raise that much this year.

Excerpts from the annual shows can be found at www.tcmhs.org.

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