By Jim Schroeder
Cheri Brindle treats her clients at the Golden Triangle Community Mental Health Center like her children.
"I just like seeing them succeed in any way," Brindle said. "I guess that's it."
Brindle has a son, Joe, who lives in Denver, and a daughter, Laurie, who lives just down the street from her. But she considers her clients her children because she is so close to them.
Brindle doesn't like to look at her clients' medical files because she feels it stereotypes them.
"If you're schizophrenic, you have something wrong with you," Brindle said. "I don't like tags or putting people into categories.
"I love people," Brindle added.
Brindle received a plaque and a Tai plant from her clients in the center's Bear Paw House last spring. Bear Paw House is a day center for clients.
"It was a very emotional day," Brindle said. "I cried like a baby. I really did. They always tell me that they love me and it was a confirmation that I'm getting through to some people."
Brindle is the rehabilitation specialist at the center, located at 312 Third St. She has clients with schizophrenia, bipolar syndrome and other mental illnesses.
Brindle has two jobs that were recently combined under one title.
She devotes much of her time to the job of therapeutic aide. She helps her clients at their homes by running errands, cleaning house or helping them with other household chores that are difficult for them.
"I always tell them that I'm mean because I expect a lot out of them and I won't take excuses for their mental illnesses," Brindle said with a grin.
"Someone told me to never underestimate the powers of Cheri," she added.
Brindle said she's often on her knees scrubbing floors or doing other household chores next to her clients.
Brindle would like to eventually open a foster home for many of her clients because she thinks they could benefit from the atmosphere.
"A lot of people from hospitals can't clean or cook and are taken advantage of," Brindle said. "And they need a safe atmosphere to learn to take care of themselves."
Brindle devotes four hours a day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to her other job as community support specialist at the Bear Paw House.
Normally she makes lunch for 10 to 15 of her clients at the Bear Paw House. It's her favorite time of the day because she can talk with them and eat in a relaxed setting.
"I try to have healthy meals because a lot of them don't know how to cook, and I know that they're not going hungry," Brindle said.
Brindle tries to make enough food for 20 people when she cooks lunch because she isn't sure of how many clients will show up for for it.
For roasts, she cooks about 15 pounds of meat. Enchiladas are her favorite and she likes to prepare about 15 pounds of hamburger for them.
"They have had steak this year because I bought it for 99 cents a pound," Brindle said.
Most years, the center couldn't afford steak for her clients, Brindle added.
The center also has a pool table and keeps a large selection of fish and birds for its clients to enjoy, Brindle said.
"But sometimes the birds are noisy and the patients yell, Shut up!'" Brindle said as she laughed.
Her clients used to stay at the Bear Paw House for most of the day, she said, but because of state budget cuts, her patients can only stay from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. throughout the week.
Brindle took her clients camping in the Bear Paw Mountains last summer even though her sister was sick in the hospital. Brindle's clients would check on her sister's condition every day. Brindle's sister would help with the holiday meals at the center and they felt close to her, Brindle said.
Brindle has worked many jobs in her life. She was a ranch hand and worked at a feed lot in Nebraska. She was a nurse's aide in Nebraska in the 1970s and worked at nursing homes in the '70s and the '80s.
"You name it, I did it," Brindle said.
Her favorite job is at the Golden Triangle Mental Health Center because her clients like her and trust her as a friend and she loves them like a mother.
"When I see somebody succeed at something they think they can't do and they do it, it makes me feel really proud," Brindle said.