By Sarah Clemmons
Like your grandmother (or mother) always said, “it’s better to give than to receive.” Although we always pull out this adage as we pull out our wallets during the holidays, the word “giving” can mean something different to each person you ask. In a time when finances may be tight due to uncertainties presented by COVID-19, it’s important to remember that some of the most important gifts are the time and experience we can share in service to our communities. Giving can be meaningful without a monetary value. Simply put, helping others makes you feel good and contributes to the greater good regardless of whether or not you are in a financial position to stroke a big check.
NAMI Lowcountry, the local chapter of a nationally affiliated nonprofit dedicated to mental health resources and awareness, demonstrates the circular nature of giving and human connection. All trained NAMI volunteers are matched to a program within their own personal experiences with mental illness. The result? Program participants note that NAMI volunteers are helpful because they can directly relate to the experiences of current participants. In turn, those participants recommend NAMI involvement to friends and relatives struggling with mental illness, whether through a personal diagnosis or in support of a loved one. Through their education and outreach programs as well as their support groups, NAMI Lowcountry knows about giving to the community.
Yet, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they made the decision to give even more because unprecedented times drum up unprecedented feelings.
As a result, Hilary Bryan who drives marketing and development efforts on the small but mighty staff at NAMI Lowcountry, shared that the organization decided in Spring 2020 to broaden its scope beyond current participants. Due to COVID-19 stressors like job loss and general uncertainty, some local residents were suffering from first-time experiences with depression and anxiety. For those people, NAMI was a lifeline to the additional support they needed.
Yet, mental illness does not have to be a constant dark shadow on our daily lives. NAMI Lowcountry’s “The Creative Mind” project shares how real life artists like photographer Emilie Reed and author (as well as NAMI Lowcountry Advocate) Wendall Churchill create art while living with mental illness each day.
The team of staff and volunteers at NAMI Lowcountry also has managed to put the creativity and fun back into fundraising with its locally legendary annual Mardi Gras Masquerade set to take place on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
In knowing the support that NAMI Lowcountry provides to its participants, how can the Lowcountry community give to the local organization?
You can give through donations, by sharing your time and personal experiences with mental illness as program volunteers, or by participating in upcoming events like the Mardi Gras event. More information on NAMI Lowcountry can be found at namilowcountry.org or by calling the local office at 843-636-3100.
Make your grandmother proud and give what you can, when you can.
Sarah Clemmons‘ specialties include membership engagement, customer service, interpersonal communication, social media and trade association management.