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    Thursday, July 18, 2024

    Reliance Health dedicates new program center in Norwich

    Norwich — Nearly 100 people gathered at the junction of Main and Cliff streets Thursday evening, at times blocking traffic and bringing even more people curious about what was happening into the crowd to watch the grand opening and dedication of Reliance Health’s new program headquarters.

    Reliance Health Inc. purchased the former Sears department store building at 2-6 Cliff St. a year ago for $2.3 million to both consolidate and expand its major service and educational programs. The purchase was part of the agency’s transition from its emphasis on housing for people with mental illness to a health services agency to meet a broader range of clients’ needs.

    Staff, wearing T-shirts with the letters “LOVE” in block format on the front and the words “Love is a Medical Necessity,” gave tours of the three-story building that also still houses the Veterans’ Center and state parole offices as rental tenants.

    Offices, lounges and conference rooms are on the first floor. The Teamworks program, described by program director Mike Doyle as a psycho-social rehabilitation program with 160 clients, and the group recovery Penobscot program with 55 participants, are on the second floor. The programs share a new “teaching kitchen” that teaches clients how to cook health meals on a budget, Doyle said.

    Career services, supportive education, supportive housing and supportive living programs occupy the third floor.

    In all, 90 Reliance Health employees previously housed in the agency’s other buildings have moved into the new space.

    Reliance Health Executive Director David Burnett said renovations are not quite complete, with rooms that still need paint and other rooms not yet ready to be occupied. The 9,000-square-foot basement remains untouched. Burnett told the crowd the plan is to create a wellness center there, with yoga classes and other services.

    With the opening, which has occurred gradually over the past several months, Reliance Health has placed the former Teamworks facility at 124 Laurel Hill Ave. on the market. A second building at 40 Main St. will be put up for sale soon.

    The agency’s homeless shelter on Penobscot Street will remain open, said Sue Caplet, Reliance Health property manager.

    After the tours, Reliance Health staff ushered the crowd onto the street to formally dedicate the former Sears store as the Morosky Building, named for the founder of what was first called The Leisure Center in 1978. Morosky and a group of other human services advocates hired Burnett as its first and only employee at the start.

    Morosky’s widow, Jane Morosky, accepted a proclamation from Mayor Peter Nystrom for Morosky's lifelong dedication to human services and to improving the Norwich community.

    “John was a gentle, very wise and comforting mentor for me and others,” Burnett said.

    Jane Morosky said she was very grateful for the tribute to her husband, and that the building that bears his name was the former Sears building, where his mother worked for years in the cafeteria.

    “John’s gentle, loving leadership was the foundation for which Reliance Health was built,” the building plaque states. “His vision was to do the right thing in every encounter, with every person. When in John’s company, there was an essence of trust, acceptance, respect, support and encouragement.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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