BY TYRONE KELSEY
NAMI Washtenaw County will be celebrating its 35th anniversary this year! Wow. When you consider how far we’ve come over those years, you see the power of grassroots efforts.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, emerged through the passionate and highly motivating experiences of men and women impacted by mental illness who were frustrated with various parts of the mental health system. They discovered that in order to be effective in building better lives for Americans affected by mental illness, the approach of rolling up their sleeves and jumping in to make change required more than just passion, opinion and motivation. To better harness and focus their passion, skills, funds, processes and structure were necessary. As a result, they now have an excellent array of resources, tools, processes and structures which they utilize to be a more effective grassroots organization.
NAMI Washtenaw County is in the midst of incorporating these same lessons. Many members have been actively involved in driving and supporting NAMI’s mission here in Washtenaw County. Their shared experiences and stories have created the basis for a 35-year history that is incredible and impressive. However, we’re at the point of change, and many of our old informal approaches are no longer valid. We need to embrace this reality. We need to begin to incorporate necessary processes and structures that build upon our passionate motivation growing out of our lived experiences.
To that end, I want to make you aware of our need to build better organizational capability. Specifically, our executive director, Judy Gardner, and her operations staff are working to accomplish the work of full-time personnel, but Judy is extremely constrained due to a limited budget that only allows for her and her team to be paid for 15 hours a week. Legal obligations don’t allow paid staff to fill in the other needed work through “volunteer” effort (which is how we have survived for 35 years).
So the reality is that we need to raise more money quickly in order to get to a “new normal” operational state. Our expectations for these essential roles can no longer be defined from a “roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-it-done” perspective. We urgently need to infuse our basic operational and infrastructure capabilities with at least $150,000.
I’d like for everyone to consider how they can help. We just launched our new website thanks to staff effort that allows for renewing NAMI Washtenaw County membership and initiating a recurring monthly contribution. Staff has done an outstanding job!
We also are working to implement our second annual fundraising effort, which we call the Spring Gala. It is set to take place Saturday, May 18. Mark your calendars, and plan to attend! A major portion of our immediate funding needs are targeted to be raised through this effort. In addition to considering how you can contribute personally, please invite family, friends, coworkers, managers, and others to contribute to and/or sponsor this effort. Over the next few months we’ll update you on how we’re progressing towards this goal!
As always, you rock! We literally can’t do this without you. Thanks for all that you do for NAMI Washtenaw County!