By Marcia Teckenbrock
Lizbeth Rios first learned of Mutual Ground while pursuing her undergraduate degree in social work at Aurora University. She and some of her classmates toured the historic mansion that houses Mutual Ground and its emergency shelter and spent time organizing clothes in Miss Fannie’s Room, a clothing closet named after a longtime volunteer. Lizbeth felt a connection with the organization and began volunteering on a regular basis caring for children—playing with and reading to them and putting them down for naps—while their parents or caretakers attended group therapy sessions.
While pursuing her master’s degree at Aurora University, an adult counseling internship position opened up, which Lizbeth applied and was awarded. “Getting involved as a volunteer gave me insight into what the organization tends to offer,” she said. “And then, as an intern, that opened my eyes even more. With the clients, it helped me see that, yes, this is really for me.” As graduation approached, Lizbeth happily accepted a full-time adult counseling position with Mutual Ground, enabling her to continue to work with her existing clients.
As a therapist at Mutual Ground in Aurora, Lizbeth helps adult domestic violence and sexual assault victims and their family members handle the trauma of violence and abuse. Her work includes helping her clients create safety plans, address anxiety and depression, develop coping skills, and build self-esteem.
The organization offers a wide range of services in the greater Aurora area. Services include a 24-hour hotline, counseling, emergency shelter for individuals and families, crisis intervention, legal advocacy, and education and prevention programs. Mutual Ground also provides outpatient substance use services and school-based prevention education programs.
Originally, Lisbeth did not see herself as an adult therapist. She had learned all the techniques and theories on social work and how to work with clients through her undergraduate and graduate degrees, but Lizbeth originally saw herself as a DCFS or adoption caseworker. “I actually told my professor that I didn’t see myself as a therapist and feared I’d say the wrong things. My professor said, ‘It’s like having a conversation,’ which it is, having a conversation with clients and teaching them things.”
“Eventually I ended up loving it,” she said. “To see my clients and the progress that I helped them make. Those were the moments when I realized, ‘These things really work! The things you can teach your clients work!’ That made me fall in love with therapy and the work I was doing.”
Lizbeth was also motivated by a lack of representation in her community. “As a Latina, I came to realize we don’t talk about mental health in our community. I also realized that many of my clients were Latina, and I am needed in the field—the Latino community needed that. That’s what keeps me going. To help other Latinas, including men, that come in.”
It is important to note that domestic violence and sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or background. “We have clients from 5-years-old to 70-years-old. Race doesn’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. The older clients feel alone. They feel that other older people don’t experience that—what they’re experiencing.”
In 2021, Mutual Ground provided crisis intervention, guidance, and information for 6,004 calls to their 24-hour hotline; counseling and advocacy services, free of charge, to 1,292 adults and children; emergency shelter for 170 adults and children; and prevention education in area schools to 31,912 students in grades K–12.
Mutual Ground has many charitable giving and volunteer opportunities, including directly aiding victims (with appropriate volunteer training), community outreach, providing wish list items for clients, and serving on a fundraising or event committee. In addition, several job opportunities are currently available. Check out their website for more information.
Mutual Ground has regular special events each year that would be a great opportunity for volunteer groups or company sponsorship.
This year’s events:
Walk for Hope,
May 15, Downtown Batavia
Black and White Ball,
October 14, Hotel Arista, Naperville
To help the clients of Mutual Ground, Main & Luxe is partnering with Love Purse and Occasions Boutique (3027 English Row Ave, Suite 111) to collect purses filled with toiletries for distribution at Mutual Ground. Purses should be between $20 to $30 in value to provide a similar experience to all recipients. You may drop off purses between March 1st and March 31st.
Examples of what to include in the purse: feminine products, deodorant, soap, body lotion, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash (no alcohol), lip balm, nail file, shower slippers, socks, face mask, comb, brush, shampoo, conditioner, face cloth, compact mirror, chocolates, mints, floss, note pad, pen, and a note of inspiration.
If you wish to donate a luxury purse, Love Purse will raffle it during its annual ball in October.
Love Purse was started by Maria Castro of Riverside, IL, after identifying a need in her community. This month is their 1-year anniversary. They have collected almost 6K purses thus far. They provide purses to non-profits throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Mutual Ground is our featured 501(c)(3) for March, please consider donating or volunteering.
418 Oak Avenue, Aurora