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Giving back to NAMI MC in More Ways Than One

Like many NAMI MC supporters, Pat and Bruce Semple first heard about NAMI MC when wanting to learn more about their loved one’s mental illness and how they could better support him. Following the recommendation of a relative who was a founding member of the NAMI chapter in West Palm Beach, the Semples looked into NAMI MC and registered for a Family-to-Family course. Now, nine years later, Pat and Bruce are still involved with NAMI MC, but this time as volunteers and monthly donors, helping others support their loved ones living with mental illness.

Pat and Bruce discuss their commitment to helping those in our community impacted by mental illness in an interview with NAMI MC’s Development Director, Sara Hourwitz.

You support NAMI MC as volunteers and as donors. Can you please share why it’s important to you to do both?

Personally, we have always believed that it’s a healthy thing for people to not be too attached to money (“the love of money is the root of all evil”) and so throughout our lives we have had a goal of giving to causes we believe in.  Taking the Family-To-Family course was the single best thing that helped us understand and navigate our son’s illness, and we wanted to ensure that others would have that same lifesaver if and when they needed it.

As for being volunteer teachers, it was a no-brainer.  Not only is it a way to pay back in-kind, but there’s nothing to cement learned facts like turning around and teaching them to someone else.  It also allowed us to benefit from the knowledge and experiences of others who were working through the same set of challenges that we were – gaining an understanding of what was happening, learning how to get help for our son, and recognizing the need for us as caregivers to engage in self-care.

Needless to say, there are a myriad of reasons other than our personal habits and needs that argue for supporting the work of NAMI MC.  The mentally ill are woefully underserved in our communities.  The needs of the mental health community are neglected when it comes to government funding, medical research, public policy, community awareness – the list goes on and on.  No doubt the ignorance of these needs is because of the stigma surrounding them and yet, as was printed on NAMI MoCo T-shirts a few years ago, “Everybody Knows Somebody” when the topic comes up.

What motivated you to begin giving a monthly donation to NAMI MC?

We made a single donation early on, after walking in to the Rockville office one day and being helped by a very compassionate and knowledgeable volunteer, but we became monthly donors while taking the Family-To-Family class.

We’ve worked in and with many non-profits over the years, and we know the importance of community support.  Not only do our dollars directly support the work of NAMI MC, but they do it in a way that allows them engage in long-term planning.  And perhaps more important from a strategy standpoint, our small but steady support serves as a significant metric for local foundations and government agencies about the importance of NAMI MC’s work.  As these larger groups consider where to put their dollars, they have hard evidence of how much we in the community value and need this organization.

Why do you think people should support NAMI MC (both financially and through volunteer work)?

Because if we don’t, who will?! Our reasons for supporting NAMI MC are small and big.  It’s a way to help our neighbors, ourselves, our son.  No one knows they need NAMI until the day comes when they do.

On the macro level, by being people who reach out and reach back to those who follow, maybe we can play a part in mustering up a critical mass in our county.  Perhaps in making NAMI MC stronger, our county can become a hopeful example to adjacent counties.  Eventually, maybe someday a robust group of adjacent county chapters will be the tipping point for the State of Maryland.  And finally, maybe someday the pattern will repeat yet again as Maryland becomes an exemplar for other states and we can make improvements at the national level.

On the micro level, and at the end of the day, supporting NAMI MC is the best legacy we can leave our son.  He did not ask for this, he doesn’t deserve this, and he is doing the best he can.  He’s not in a position to advocate for himself right now, but in supporting NAMI MC with our money and our time we can do it for him.