People with mental health issues, addiction problems or physical disabilities can get help free of charge at Pacific Crossroads Drop-in Center in Brookings.

The office is tucked away from view, up a driveway behind Chetco Pharmacy at 2 Ross Road. Once there, clients find empathetic volunteers to talk with them about their troubles and recommend available community services.

"We are peers. We are not counselors," said Crystal Williams, president of Crossroads' board of directors. "We listen to what people's needs are.

"We try to empower people for independence. That's our main goal."

All board members recently completed training in Coos Bay to receive certification as peer mentors. Toni Crumpacker, a volunteer who serves as treasurer, said the knowledge they received helps them encourage clients to persevere through difficult times in their lives.

"It gives people hope," she said.

Crossroads, which expects to receive nonprofit status any day, has recently reorganized and has some new board members. Williams has been president for just three months and is taking the agency in a positive direction, according to Merna Peterson, a mental health specialist in Gold Beach who is the liaison between Crossroads and the Curry County Human Services Department.

"They've got a phenomenal thing going there," she said. "I consulted with them because they needed help with organizational stuff. They provide a vital service and have made a lot of progress."

Peterson said the help that Crossroads volunteers give to those with addiction issues is as valuable as programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

She noted that the volunteers are in recovery themselves. That helps them connect with clients, especially those who are embarrassed to talk about mental health topics, Peterson said.

"A lot of times those people are isolated," she said. "They feel judged. It's very good for them to have someplace to go where people are in recovery, too."

Peterson added that her office helped Crossroads access a start-up grant. Crossroads is entirely funded by grants and donations.

Lots of people don't know what kind of help they need, Williams said. Volunteers are particularly helpful in pointing out options and allowing clients to choose which they want to pursue.

Williams is still in recovery from a brain aneurism that burst 34 years ago when she was 10. She was hospitalized for a month and still suffers memory loss as well as damage to her left leg and foot.

"I understand where people are coming from," Williams said.

Her mother, Toni Kurth, volunteers in the office and calls her daughter "a fighter, for sure."

Crossroads, which opened in 2009 in a building on Railroad Street, receives two to three dozen walk-ins each week, many of whom become volunteers to help others.

Crumpacker said "mapping classes" have proved to be valuable. That involves interviewing clients about their hopes and dreams.

"We ask them, 'How do you want your future to be different from your past,'" she said.

Besides tackling problems of addiction, mental health and physical disabilities, Crossroads volunteers also connect people with agencies such as Oregon Coast Community Action, which helps low-income people pay rent and electricity bills.

Curry County OCCA coordinator Cindy Davis said Crossroads is a positive resource.

"They provide a place where people can work on their issues," she said. "They help them get out and be social, to get out of their shell."

The Brookings Crossroads office is open for walk-ins from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those who want to volunteer, donate money to the center, or need more information about programs may call Crossroads at 541-412-2712.

Crumpacker emphasized the need for more volunteers.

"I can't express enough how much we need them," she said. "We want people who are committed to good mental health in our community."

Williams said anything that clients discuss with volunteers is confidential.

"This is where it stays," she said.