Caption: Volunteers, staff, and board members celebrate together at the Volunteer Appreciation Event
By Patricia Doyle, Volunteer Coordinator
On Sunday, July 11, at the New Center, NAMI WC staff hosted an event to honor all the volunteers who have contributed so much to our affiliate. Their work and dedication provided the help needed to continue our outreach efforts and to expand our programs.
Early on, we had planned to have this special event outdoors at a local park but we had to reschedule due to rain and flooding. The New Center conference rooms worked out well and accommodated the 35 volunteers that attended. It was a time, finally, to socialize and reconnect after being apart for so long due to the pandemic.
Pilar’s Tamale Restaurant catered the event. Attendees enjoyed the tamales, side dishes, their popular pineapple cake, hibiscus tea, and watermelon punch.
There was a full agenda that included games, prizes, and gift cards. Each volunteer was acknowledged by the chairperson of the program or initiative for which they volunteered. Each volunteer stood as their name was called followed by applause. Many volunteers have engaged in multiple roles and each of their contributions were acknowledged and appreciated.
Judy Gardner, Executive Director, introduced the staff and the board members. Each board member spoke about their history of involvement with NAMI WC. The staff described their job and the role they have played as a team member working with the Executive Director.
The highlight of the event was honoring a volunteer with the Laura Lancaster award. Laura passed away 12 years ago. She was a NAMI WC office and newsletter volunteer. Each year, her parents, Sue and Blake, have generously presented this award. This year the recipient was Cathy Hearn, the new newsletter editor.
Tom Powell and I gave a tribute to a recently deceased founding member of NAMI WC, Helen Hill. Our affiliate became incorporated as a nonprofit in 1984 due to Helen’s determination and hard work. Helen started the first psychosocial clubhouse in Washtenaw County for those with mental health conditions. At that time, it was called Trail Blazers, modeled after Fountain House in New York City. Helen also did advocacy work in Washtenaw County and remained a member until her death at age 106. She accomplished all of this after her retirement. Helen commented in her 2005 newsletter story, A Decade with NAMI WC, “my work with NAMI WC was my full time retirement job.” In her memory donations were requested to be sent to NAMI WC. Helen was an inspiration to all who knew her.
This brings to mind a quote by Margaret Mead, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” As an end to the appreciation event each volunteer was given a NAMI WC water bottle and a tote bag with the motto, “Be Kind to Your Mind.”
I overheard a couple of comments as volunteers were leaving, including “I never realized that NAMI WC had so many programs and initiatives,” and “I learned so much about all the work that NAMI WC does in the community.”
Thank you to all our devoted volunteers. It is because of each of you that we are a thriving affiliate.
Patricia Doyle has been a member, volunteer, and staff member of NAMI WC since 2002. In addition to coordinating volunteers, she facilitates the Family-to-Family Education classes. She resides in Saline and lives in support of a loved one with a mental health condition. She enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with family and traveling.