Marshall professor to be honored by Harmony House at annual breakfast

February 24, 2019
1 of 2
Dr. Marianna Linz of Marshall's psychology department checks out a finished painting during a weekly Chat and Create session on Tuesday at the Harmony House in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — The words “arts and crafts” and “homeless” may not get used often in a sentence, but they are here every Tuesday at Harmony House thanks to Marianna Linz.

Linz, chairperson of the Department of Psychology at Marshall University, has for the past year and a half brought students and fellow faculty to Harmony House where they have been providing Chat and Create, a recreational wellness group, in addition to hosting other special events for tenants and those experiencing homelessness.

It is for her unique program and dedication that she is the recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award at the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless 11th annual Hometown Breakfast is set for 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at the St. Mary’s Conference Center in Huntington.

Tickets for the Hometown Breakfast are $50 and can be purchased through Monday, Feb. 25. Those interested in tickets or sponsorship packages should contact Assistant Director Marissa Clark at 304-523-2764, ext. 102, or by email at marissa.clark@harmonyhousewv.com.

Amanda Coleman, executive director for the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless, said that Linz has not only created a valuable program at Harmony House, but also continues to go above and beyond to help those in need.

“Marianna is one of the rare people who asks others what they need before trying to intervene,” Coleman said. “She did this when she first decided to give her time to Harmony House. Marianna and her students spent hours at Harmony House on several occasions simply hanging out with our clients and

asking them what they need. They requested what has become Chat and Create, a recreational therapy-type group that uses art to help individuals struggling with mental illness and substance use disorder. Marianna has become like family to those who attend the group regularly. She also routinely provides food to clients at Harmony House, provides training to Coalition and CoC staff, and supervises students spending time at Harmony House in a number of different capacities.

Linz, who is a McDowell County native who has now been at Marshall for 27 years, said her work with Harmony House came about when she was trying to expand training for doctoral students. The expansion would focus on working with patients in underserved populations.

“In our doctoral program, one of its primary focuses is working with patients in rural and underserved populations. We made a decision to expand the training to those who are homeless or who have been unstably housed and to reach out to those populations to learn how to work more effectively with them.”

Linz said Chat and Create simply came from going to Harmony House and talking with folks who work at Harmony House as well as clients to see what would be beneficial.

Linz and her co-creators, students John Prentice and Ashley Sansone, came up with the concept for Chat and Create and about a year and a half ago started the weekly sessions. They come down on Tuesdays about 11:30 a.m., and have an open art and talking session.

“It can be a few as two or three, if one person comes we will stay, and we have had as many as eight,” Linz said. “We have a core group of about half a dozen who show up reasonably often, and a couple, and then folks coming in and out. One of the folks that comes very often said ‘You know, with everything that goes on in my world, I can focus on one thing, and I can see my product. It settles me and it centers me. It makes it easier to get in touch with my thoughts when I can see the progress of my art.’”

Linz said that naturally when they are all sitting and chatting about things everyone opens up and that they all learn from each other.

“We have a tub of different art supplies and we talk about whatever is on the agenda,” Linz said. “Sometimes younger folks come in and we talk to them about the things they are doing and if they could be doing other things that would get them closer to their goals. It’s not a treatment group. I would like to think of it as a wellness group and we learn a lot from each other ... I have to admit it is pretty relaxing. It’s become the thing in my week that I am not missing.”

Linz said as part of Chat and Create, the Huntington Museum of Art did a special pottery session for participants, and that the group always welcomes artists in the community who would like to come in and share their talents with the group. The group meets at Harmony House at 627 4th Ave., in the block west of the Cabell County Courthouse.

Whoever stops by, Linz promises that if they are open to the experience, they will be enriched by it like she has.

“We have such a tendency when people look different or seem different to create a barrier or to not look,” Linz said. “When you stop doing that and meet people where they are you find out we are all real similar and wonderfully different. I have found I am encouraged by the people who are there on a daily basis. We are missing an opportunity if we are not sitting down and meeting with people that are different from us.”

The Hometown Breakfast also will feature keynote speaker Tamar Slay, a former NBA player and 2012 Marshall University Hall of Famer. Other award recipients will be: Traci Strickland, Heart for the Homeless; First Presbyterian Church, Community Partner of the Year; and Little Caesar’s South Point, Business Partner of the Year.

Harmony House will also honor Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert with the newly created Community Innovator Award, according to a news release.