There were lines to everything but no one seemed to mind Saturday at the fourth annual Gresham Center Fun Fair.
One of the longest lines was the one leading to the free child safety photo IDs provided by Life Touch Photo studio. “I had my baby and 2-year-old niece here earlier,” said Brandi Hileman, of Hartford City. “Then, I came back with my two nephews for this.”
Families received the free child ID, along with a free photo proof and instructions on how to order more. Charles Dent and Julia Baker were manning the booth for Life Touch. “It doubles every year,” said Charles of the number of children coming through. “We give parents updated photographs of their children. Just in case.”
Lindsey Coffee brought her two children for the fun and games. “It was something new to do,” she said as she sat on the grass with her children, soaking up the sun and sounds of Seth Cook of Cook and Belle.
It was the biggest crowd yet at the Gresham Center Fun Fair Saturday, where nearly 30 community health and safety providers talked to more than 2,000 visitors.
The Fun Fair is but one of several annual events by Meridian Services designed to raise awareness.
A year ago, Meridian became the first behaviorial health organization in the state to open a primary care division.
For Michelle Keppler, of Muncie, the Fun Fair was an introduction to something she’ll do again. She brought her two children and two neighbor children. “We’ll be back next year.”
Megan Templin, whose son is seen by staff, praised the event. “We’re actually are clients of Meridian.” We’ve been using services for six months and I can already see a big difference.”
Zach Hall, 9, a student at Grissom Elementary School, was winner of one of the raffles Saturday. He took home the Fun Fair outdoor prize basket. “We’re here to support the community,” said Sheri Murray, Zach’s godmother. “It’s wonderful what Meridian does,” said Murray, a transportation driver for Life Stream Services. “I know the kinds of needs that are out there. I try to do as much as I can.”
State Rep. Dennis Tyler, D-Muncie, was among friends of Meridian to turn out for the fourth annual Fun Fair Saturday. Tyler, who is running for mayor in Muncie, brought his 6-year-old grandson, CJ. “What they do here is amazing,” Tyler said. “It makes a difference.”
Hank Milius has been president and CEO of Meridian Services for almost exactly 10 years, but hadn’t stopped to think about when the precise anniversary might be.
In his 25-30 years as a top administrator for mental health facilities, Milius has worked in Chicago, Michigan, Missouri and Alabama before coming to Indiana.
“I’ve been able to see samplings of our industry in various states,” Milius said. “Indiana is by far the best overall and I’ve been fortunate to work with Meridian which in my experience has been the best organization to work for.”
Milius said the influence of Eli Lilly & Co, Indiana University Health and other leaders in the biotechnology field have benefitted Indiana health care centers like Meridian.
Though Meridian has grown exponentially during his tenure, Milius gives the credit to his staff and the legacy left to him by his predecessor, Dr. Suzanne Gresham, who retired. He plays down his own accomplishments, saying “I hired a great staff; that’s what I did.”
The idea for the Fun Fair, Milius said, came from the staff. “I was smart enough to say, oh sure go ahead.”
Meridian Services CEO Hank Milius:
At events like Fun Fair, Bob Coles seems to be everywhere– and wherever he’s not, someone is probably looking for him. He’s touching base with participating vendors, making sure everything is going smoothly and trying to resist the urge to try out the inflatable games himself.
“I wish I was about eight years old right now,” he says, eyeballing one of the giant inflatables new this year.
Coles has some 35 years of experience working in mental health and addictions as a counsellor and an administrator — the last 10 at Meridian Services where he is vice president for clinical services. His duties include overseeing children’s services at the Suzanne Gresham Center, which helps about 4,000 children every year.
Coles is an enthusiastic evangelist for the important work Meridian does. “A lot of what we do is outside of what people traditionally think about what mental health is,” Coles says. “We’re unique in a lot of ways.”
Meridian takes a holistic approach to its mission, focusing on mental, physical and social health and well-being. “Not everyone needs the same kind of help,” Coles says, “so you have to individualize that.”
Although some of Meridian’s patients have severe mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, it also works with families on more common problems — depression, anxiety and addictions. Through Meridian MD, families can get both medical and mental health care.
Meridian tries to make its services accessible for all, Cole said. It accepts insurance and Medicaid, but also has a sliding scale based on income for services not covered by insurance. “We don’t let money be an obstacle for someone to get services,” he said. “We really work hard on that.”