KITCHEN TABLE TO SELF-HELP NETWORK
Originally named the Self-Help Network, WSU’s Community Engagement Institute was founded in 1984 by Evelyn Middelstadt. The Self-Help Network was focused on providing referrals to self-help support groups and operated from a simple table in Evelyn’s kitchen. Eventually, Evelyn was joined by WSU professor Dr. Greg Meissen, and in 1985 it moved to the WSU Psychology Department. It became a statewide resource and nationally recognized for its contributions to research, promotion, and best practices in self-help support groups. The Community Engagement Institute draws upon this history by recognizing the importance of “people helping people” and continues to operate one of the largest self-help support group referral centers in the United States.
EXPANSION TO THE CENTER FOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT & RESEARCH
Throughout the 1990s, the Self-Help Network was asked to support other local and state projects. Some of these included the Kansas Community Leadership Initiative, the statewide mental-health Consumer Run Organization network, Project ACCESS, and Compassion Kansas. In addition, dozens of requests came from nonprofits, coalitions, local governments, faith-based organizations, and others looking for help with strategic planning and direction, board governance and development, evaluation, and collaboration.
Given this expansion, the Self-Help Network changed its name in the mid 2000s to the Center for Community Support and Research. During that time it moved to downtown Wichita to better serve the local and statewide community. In 2009, leadership transitioned to Dr. Scott Wituk who had worked at CCSR since 1993.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT INSTITUTE AT NEWLY RENOVATED WSU OLD TOWN
CCSR’s efforts in leadership, mental health, public health, and assistance to nonprofits and community coalitions became more widely recognized. The organization grew to having nearly 100 grants and contracts each year. These demands required a different organizational structure to be responsive to community partners. Therefore, in 2015 the Community Engagement Institute was established and now represents one of WSU’s largest collections of centers dedicated to serving the community. The Community Engagement Institute houses six centers and has an annual operating budget of over $7 million. With over 80 staff and students from across disciplines, additional office space, meeting and training rooms were needed. In the fall of 2015, the Community Engagement Institute moved to the newly renovated WSU Old Town building at 238 N. Mead to help engage the community.