Marilyn Murphy leads Topeka organization that helps people with mental illness

Marilyn Murphy is the director of the Sunshine Connection, 3434 S.W. 6th Ave., which provides support for people with mental illness in the Topeka area.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 7:21 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - It may not be among the best-known social service agencies in Topeka, but make no mistake -- the Sunshine Connection serves an important need for those with mental illness who come through its doors each week.

“The main point of Sunshine Connection,” said Marilyn Murphy, the organization’s director, “is to provide a safe zone for persons in our community that have mental health challenges.”

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3434 S.W. 6th Ave.

“We provide a place for them to come and engage in social activities, arts and crafts and community outreach,” Murphy said. “They also are provided with hot meals -- breakfast and lunch.”

A Harvesters food pantry also is available for members.

Murphy has been the director of the organization for the past three years.

“I’ve seen a lot of people make a lot of changes since I’ve been here,” she said.

The Sunshine Connection receives most of its funding from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Murphy said. In addition, the organization also receives private donations including food, clothing and hygiene products. Monetary donations also help fund Sunshine Connection programs, she added.

Since it was founded in 1995, the Sunshine Connection has been at several locations. Its present location was formerly the home of Tommy’s Restaurant -- something that has come in handy for the Sunshine Connection.

“It actually worked out pretty good,” Murphy said. “Because we serve hot meals, the kitchen is always open. We have a great cook and she just loves to make everybody happy at lunchtime.”

Murphy said people are welcome to drop in for a bite to eat.

“Come on by and check us out and see what Aunt Betty’s got going on in the kitchen,” Murphy said. “She’d love to have you.”

Murphy said the Sunshine Connection is open to everyone, not just those with mental illness.

“Come and talk with some of us members and just chat with us -- it might be a good fit for you,” Murphy said. “You just never know.

“We’re never going to turn anybody away from the doors of Sunshine Connection, that’s for sure.

“We’re always going to try to make you feel as welcome as possible and see that any needs that you have get met. If we don’t have it, we will find a way to help get your problem solved. And if you don’t have a problem, come on in any way. We’d just love to have you.”

Allan Davis, one of the Sunshine Connection’s members, said he appreciates the opportunity to meet with others who are experiencing mental illness.

“This is a good place to meet people and have friends,” Davis said. “Over the years, I’ve come to know a lot of people who came here.

“I enjoy the camaraderie and just having someone to talk to sometimes, and having people who understand about mental illness and not having to be ashamed of having mental illness, but rather instead we all understand what others might be going through.”

Christina Moore, another member of the Sunshine Connection, said she comes to the organization on the days when it is open.

“I like being able to come to Connections and have a safe place where it keeps my mind occupied, and so I’m not thinking about my negative thoughts.

“I get to meet new people and make new connections and just have a safe place.”

The Sunshine Connection has been conducting its “Have a Heart” fundraiser in February, though the organization will take donations throughout the year.

For more information on the Sunshine Connection, call 785-232-0315 or 785-730-4773. Additional details are available on the Sunshine Connection Facebook page.

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