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Partnership between local food pantry and Burrell Behavioral Health aims to help those with mental health needs

Least of These Be Well Bell designed by Michele Pierce
Michele Skalicky
Least of These Be Well Bell designed by Michele Pierce

Least of These is part of Burrell's Be Well Initiatives.

A food pantry and a nonprofit that provides mental health care have teamed up to reach more people in southwest Missouri. And they’re doing it in part, through a bell.

Least of These in Ozark is a partner of the Be Well Initiatives at Burrell Behavioral Health.

Bailey Pyle, licensed clinical provider for Be Well, said they work with participating organizations to promote brain health.

Organizations receive large bells painted by local artists that contain a QR Code that anyone can scan 24/7 to be immediately directed to services. Pyle said the bell is a symbol of hope.

"It serves as a visual reminder of ending stigma associated with brain health, inspiring lives worth living and reducing suicide," Pyle said.

The bells represent brain health in the community and are symbols that "our whole health is welcomed here," she said.

Least of These recently unveiled its Be Well Bell.

Michele Pierce, client services coordinator for Least of These -- and a professional artist -- designed the bell. She painted foods from different cultures in every color of the visual spectrum.

"I feel very much our individual health is tied to the health of the planet," she said. "Every single thing, every organism, is tied to one another, and it's really important to me at this moment in time that people are made aware of that fact and also the fact that — if we're not careful — our planet is not going to be able to sustain life as we know it."

Least of These Be Well Bell designed by Michele Pierce
Michele Skalicky
Least of These Be Well Bell designed by Michele Pierce

Least of These has served those who need help with food in Christian County for 25 years, and it's seen the need grow significantly. Its executive director Kristy Carter said they are seeing more families now than they ever saw during the pandemic as people struggle to make ends meet during a time of higher prices for food, rent, utilities and gas.

She said they have counselors available during food distributions who can connect people with mental health services if they need it.

Most of their clients are experiencing or have experienced some sort of trauma, said Carter, "and just coming to the food pantry and not having enough money to feed your family is traumatic."

The Be Well Bell will be another way the nonprofit will help improve the community's brain health, she said.

Least of These will place the bell outside its building in Ozark so anyone can access it and get care when they need it.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.