Holli Zehring may be to blame for the development of Ophelia’s Place. But that’s one label that she probably doesn’t mind having. Sixteen years ago and after being admitted for the treatment of her eating disorder, Holli found herself outside of treatment walls and yearning for a positive and supportive place to go. She had attended “support” groups but she described this experience as the following, “It was like being at an AA meeting and everyone was drunk.” She felt lost. Scared. Alone. When asked by her mother, Mary Ellen Clausen, “what is it that you need to get better?” Holli responded, “A place to go and feel safe.” And with that – Ophelia’s Place was born. Thank goodness.

Today, Ophelia’s Place supports 50-75 individuals and families each week, and reaches thousands each year.
Located in Liverpool, NY, Ophelia’s Place offers support groups and treatment for individuals experiencing eating disorders and disordered eating, as well as for their friends and family. When Holli and I spoke about what makes Ophelia’s Place stand out she easily answered, “It’s a comprehensive care center. NO ONE gets left behind.” The message and vision seemed so simple but somehow gets so lost in today’s struggle IMG_5351of managed care driven programs and piecemeal approaches. “I know how much I suffered,” she offered, “We wondered if I was alone.” The answer, clearly not. The connections and support that Ophelia’s Place offers has resonated deeply in the community.

The most unique element to Ophelia’s Place lays in the adjoining Café at 407. You might think it odd, right? A food establishment providing the backbone for eating disorder treatment and education? But it’s thinking outside of the box that makes this place so special. This is a “Café with a Cause” as they say, with all of the proceeds going back to support Ophelia’s Place. “The Café erases the line in the sand that divides the mental health community, and reduces the shame and stigma without minimizing the struggle of those who suffer.” When Holli spoke of Café at 407 she paused, “I get really emotional when I think about the Café. You feel so alone when you’re sick. The community here is supporting our cause in such a significant way. Some of the most pivotal points in recovery are in the small moments. The Café creates a space for those moments to unfold.” When asked about how she and Mary Ellen have established peace in a place that could be so frightening to many in recovery, Holli mentioned writing on the wall that reads Everyone is Beautiful “When you are in recovery from an eating disorder you are so vulnerable at a meal. To look up and see that makes a big difference.”

Ophelia’s Place and Café at 407 have taken their mission another step further and created the Circles of Change conference. Set in Phoenix, Arizona this conference is working to change the conversation surrounding health, beauty and body image and working to put a culture shift in motion. “We can’t do it alone,” Holli said, “We need everyone to contribute. At Circles of Change we stress the importance of empowerment.”

As we rounded out our chat, Holli reminded me of why it is that we, at Embody Love Movement, do what we do. “You don’t realize the load you are carrying when you hate yourself. You need to free yourself up. Over the years of recovery, I started to notice that EMBODYING recovery, self-love, and being authentic with my story positively impacted those around me. If just BEING had this effect on people I started to ask myself, what could happen if I started to step out more and do more in faith. The risk of staying quiet is too big!”

Holli and Mary Ellen, you are stepping out and we think what you’re doing is awesome. You are officially LOVE TAGGED!


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