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Siouxland Mental Health will install sensory therapy equipment with rediscovered funds
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Siouxland Mental Health will install sensory therapy equipment with rediscovered funds

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SIOUX CITY -- The Siouxland Mental Health Center is preparing to install sensory equipment behind its building, using a newly found funding source.

Nancy Thieman, director of special projects with Siouxland Mental Health, said the nonprofit is planning to install outdoor percussion musical equipment, a sandbox and a labyrinth panel (a sort of large puzzle installation) in a backyard area behind its building on Court Street. The musical equipment may include an outdoor xylophone, cymbals and/or drums. 

"It is for therapeutic purposes for either individuals or groups," Thieman said. "We're planning on some different musical things."  

Nancy Thieman of the Siouxland Mental Health Center talks about a therapeutic playground that will be build behind their Sioux City clinic.

There is not yet a set date for when the equipment will be installed: "The sooner the better, we're coming into the prime season for using it," Thieman said. 

Sensory integration therapy involves stimulating the senses -- usually touch, sound and sight -- in the treatment of various neurological conditions. Thieman said the musical equipment can be especially helpful for those who struggle with language and communication. 

"There is no language barrier with music," she said. 

According to Occupational Health for Children, an Australian children's clinical service, sensory issues can manifest in various ways -- some individuals may be too sensitive to sensory stimuli, while others may respond too little to such stimuli. Autism, for example, is known to produce an aversion to loud noises in some people. 

Various conditions can result in coordination problems, too little or too much activity, poor behavior and organization-skill deficits, among others. Sensory integration therapy is thought to alleviate some of these symptoms. 

"They help build self-esteem and self-confidence, giving them additional stimulating things to do, and help with coping skills," Thieman said. "This helps decrease the symptoms of whatever that individual's particular diagnosis is, whether that be depression, anxiety, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder." 

Siouxland Mental Health had been wanting to buy this sort of equipment for several years. Then at the March 16 Woodbury County Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Mark Monson proposed that a largely forgotten $30,000 bequest that had been intended for the old County Home would be given to Siouxland Mental Health. The Board of Supervisors voted to allocate the money. 

"This is something that we really want to do, but we have never had the funds," Sheila Martin, executive director of Siouxland Mental Health, said during the March 16 meeting. "And what a safe thing to do, to be able to provide therapy outside for our kids and adults, especially in the world with the pandemic right now. So we are really looking forward to this." 

Philanthropist Mildred W. Anderson died Nov. 12, 1988 at age 80. She and husband Robert D. Anderson, who died three years earlier, had owned and operated the Sioux City Stationery Co. for years. 

Upon her death, Anderson donated more than $1 million to more than two dozen organizations -- charitable, civic, arts, religious, education and health groups all benefitted. The most prominent of these bequests was $300,000 for a grand dance pavilion along the Missouri River -- the Anderson Dance Pavilion. Mildred and Robert met at a dance pavilion in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1916. 

In lists of organizations that were on the receiving end of Anderson's bequest, the Woodbury County Home and its $30,000 gift tended to be put near the bottom. 

The County Home was a mental health facility on Old Highway 141. Anderson had intended that her gift be used to furnish things that "will bring comfort and cheer" to the patients there. 

But for one reason or another, Anderson's gift sat on Woodbury County's books mostly unused. The County Home closed a decade and a half after Anderson died. The money still sat there, and with interest eventually came to be around $36,000. 

Much of the County Home's role in the community was inherited by Siouxland Mental Health, making the organization the most logical modern-day heir to the funds. 

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