Over 20 volunteers praised for mental health services to the community
■ By Dennis Fletcher / Contributed
The second annual Recognition Fiesta by NAMI Mt. San Jacinto took place last month at the Golden Era Golf Course with an enthusiastic audience of volunteers and other residents of San Jacinto, Hemet, Perris and Banning.
NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization and is dedicated to improving the lives of those with mental illness.
Attendees to the event – who enjoyed grilled soft tacos prepared by Jose Solis and salsa music delivered by deejay Jaime Rojas at the Golden Era Productions clubhouse and surrounding golf course – had two purposes. First, it was intended to raise money to support the local NAMI Mt. San Jacinto chapter. Second it was to honor those who have contributed to the achievements of the chapter over the past 20 years.
NAMI local chapters throughout the U.S. are staffed by trained and dedicated volunteers who work to raise awareness of, and provide services to, families dealing with mental health issues.
More than 20 volunteers were acknowledged for their service and presented with awards by NAMI Mt. San Jacinto Director Brenda Scott. Scott told the audience, “Tonight we honor many of our volunteers and appreciate all they do in the community to support families and those who are affected by mental health conditions. We look forward to the time that mental health conditions are looked at by society as other health conditions which are treatable and in which people can live amazing lives with purpose and hope.”
Jasmine Rubio, board member of both NAMI Mt. San Jacinto and the San Jacinto Unified School Board, was at a table with other supporters of NAMI from St. Anthony Catholic Church of San Jacinto: Beatrice Marquez (catechist), Luisa Padilla (extraordinary ministry), and Christian Sanchez. Rubio spoke for all at the table, “We have been taking awareness of mental health issues into our local Hispanic community.”
Maria Rosa Alvarado, board president of NAMI Mt. San Jacinto, said, “I really appreciate the fact that if you look around the room, you will see that we have a very diverse group.”
Linda Greilich, Community Events Director at Golden Era Golf Club, the host of the evening’s venue and long-time supporter of community events in the valley, said, “We want to help to make this a better place for all of us.”
Recipient Mark Faber, past president of NAMI Mt. San Jacinto and support group facilitator in Hemet and Banning, said, “It is our caring for one another that makes a difference in the world.”
Rivco mental health facility
Jill Forbes, supervisor in charge of the Riverside County Health System Behavioral Health Services mental health facility at 650 N. State St. in Hemet, was a major award recipient. Forbes personifies the type of dedicated professional partner NAMI Mt. San Jacinto relies upon. Brenda Scott enumerated the tremendous improvements in the facility and its outreach to the community achieved through partnerships planned or now in place with Valley Restart, Walmart for art supplies, Stater Bros. for food baskets, barbering, optometry, dental services, as well as P.A.I.R. for pet therapy with miniature horses.
Other award winners recognized included Maria Gallegos who teaches Spanish family courses, Isabel Rodriguez who leads a support group, and Board President Maria Rosa Alvarado who teaches the Family-to-Family courses in Spanish. Alvarado, who will soon travel to Washington, D.C. to become a trainer, will train others to teach the NAMI programs in Spanish. Alvarado said, “We all need to unite and grow together, especially in the field of mental health.”
NAMI Mt. San Jacinto Board Treasurer Cheryle Steddom and Clark Steddom received awards for teaching the NAMI course Family-to-Family five times. Cheryle also teaches the Family and Friends course.
Holly Reynolds, Karen Reynolds, and Mary Rust were recognized for their work on the annual NAMIWalk fundraiser that takes place at Diamond Lake. Mary Rust was a school administrator who is now retired. She knows firsthand how important mental health education is to children and families in schools.
Also recognized were Andrea Morgan who helps with support groups, NAMIWalks, and is on the board of directors, and Kathy Faber who served on the board of directors in the past as secretary and is a family teacher and the “state trainer.”
The Valley Chronicle was recognized by NAMI for their support, as was writer Dennis Fletcher for supporting NAMIWalks and other NAMI Mt. San Jacinto activities.
Recipient Dr. Ijeoma Ijeaku, member of the local NAMI board, is a Board-certified child/adolescent psychiatrist who has worked at the Mt. San Jacinto Children’s Clinic for over five years. She was recognized for the classes and critical services she has provided to the community and for her outstanding service on the board over the past three years. Ijeaku said, “When we partner in the fight against mental health issues, then we go far! NAMI was born over 40 years ago as a result of collaborative efforts between two mothers with children struggling with mental illness. The fight against mental illness requires all of us working together.”
Others recognized: Lyla Wilson who was a member for 15 years and served as president for six years previously, Caitlyn Ruiz who does presentations about mental health to the community and serves on the board of directors, Rosie McCormick who teaches a yoga class for NAMI, Olivia Mendoza who also teaches classes in Spanish, Carol Bussey and Blanca Reyes, who both have taught mental health education classes to families. Also, Yolanda Siordia and Ishmael Bribesca were recognized for teaching peer classes to those who have a mental health condition.
The nine-hole Golden Era Productions golf course and clubhouse in San Jacinto is a favorite venue for nonprofit and charitable groups to gather. Community Events Director Linda Greilich manages both the Golden Era Golf Course and Golden Era Clubhouse.
The local NAMI chapter continually offers free classes in English and Spanish for those who have a mental health condition and want to learn about mental health and how to live in recovery. Classes are offered for families wanting to learn about mental illnesses and how they can be of support to their relatives, friends, and significant others.
NAMI Mt. San Jacinto
NAMI Mt. San Jacinto is a grassroots organization of families and individuals whose lives have been affected by serious mental illness. Members advocate for lives of quality and respect, without discrimination and stigma, for all their constituents. The group advocates for mental health legislation, and policy development. They provide free support and education throughout the Hemet/San Jacinto/Perris Valley and the Banning Pass areas.
NAMI Mt. San Jacinto meets quarterly at Spirit of Joy Church, 3126 W. Johnston Ave., Hemet. They meet at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Mondays in January, April, July and October. Meetings are educational and free to the community. For more information, visit www.namimtsanjacinto.org or call 951-765-1850.