The Center for Mindful Living will give up its physical space on Main Street and move its programming online as it tries to navigate the devastating effects of a global pandemic.
"We are lucky that we had a landlord that understood the predicament we were in," said Stephanie Wilkins, executive director of the center, which opened in 2013. "We have taken a huge hit in our revenue, and having a significant lease payment each month, we can't do it anymore."
The nonprofit center has been closed to in-person meetings and classes since coronavirus cases emerged locally in March, and the recent escalation in the numbers of infections and hospitalizations makes it clear that people won't be comfortable coming together again any time soon, Wilkins said.
"We have been polling our instructors and our community asking, how do you feel about coming back together?" she said. "No one is prepared to do that."
The furnishings and books that fill the center's space at 400 E. Main St. will go up for sale as the center moves its offerings online and expands its programming to reflect the needs of communities weathering the fallout of this global crisis, Wilkins said.
In April, a survey of 250 local businesses by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce showed that 60% had lost over half of their sales or revenues due to the virus and the business shutdowns it has caused. Nearly half of the businesses that responded to the Chamber poll said they expect to be closed for five to eight weeks and 43% expect to be shut down for more than nine weeks.
After shutdowns in March, local businesses began reopening in late April, but a subsequent spike in coronavirus cases prompted a mask mandate in Hamilton County, and has left uncertainty about the path for returning to work and school.
Though the pandemic has hit the business hard, a mindfulness practice can be valuable in coping with the "long-term isolation and fear associated with COVID," Wilkins said.
"A lot of these things are being done in real time with Zoom so you actually do get to interact with people in class, with instructors," she said.
Over the years, the center has developed programming specific to schools and businesses. Online offerings will allow the center to expand its reach, Wilkins added.
"There isn't another mindfulness nonprofit anywhere near this region," she said. "We have the opportunity now to be outside of a geographic location and allow people from other states and communities, and that's an exciting thing for us."
It's not clear whether the center will have a physical space again in the future, she said, but the work will continue.
"We are here and we are trying to have an even more profound presence in our community," she said.
Contact Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter @maryfortune.