Helping to build healthy, compassionate communities is one of our primary goals at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County. With so many issues facing all of us each day, we know that it truly “takes a village” to find solutions and take action that has real impact. This month, in honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, we recognize the many business professionals and community leaders who believe in the power of compassion and collaboration, who work together and give of themselves with the firm belief that creating dialogue and supporting positive behaviors is the best investment for a better today and a healthier tomorrow.
In September 2009, a dedicated group of Middlesex County business leaders decided to help make a difference in the lives of our young people and took a stand against mean-spirited behavior. Working through the Community Foundation, they established the Council of Business Partners Fund and, with the help of Rushford, a Hartford Healthcare partner, developed and funded anti-bullying programming for educators, students and parents. In 2014, they partnered with other organizations throughout Middlesex County and Connecticut to launch the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities, calling everyone to stand together and be agents of change.
The Ivoryton Playhouse answered that call – loud and clear – with the staging of The Bully, an Off-Broadway musical that tells the story of a middle-school bully and his target, the smartest kid in school, who have to work together and realize they are not so different from one another. Through a partnership with the Council of Business Partners, 1257 grade five and grade six students from Essex, Chester, Deep River, Clinton, Portland, Durham, Middlefield, Middletown and East Hampton were able to attend the production this spring. The “lessons learned” were priceless.
We all feel the effects of mental health issues, either directly or indirectly, and we can, in fact, take steps to contribute to our community’s mental wellness if we work together. With that shared belief, a group of community organizations formed a collaborative with the goal of getting the issues out in the open and creating a dialogue for action. Inspired by their vision, an anonymous donor reached out to the Community Foundation to establish the Mental Wellness Fund to help support dedicated groups like these.
One outcome is The “Compassion Counts” Conversations, a series of free, public forums intended to bring together community members, mental health professionals, and panelists for discussion and exploration of mental health issues and services in our communities today. This winter, a group of more than 15 shoreline community organizations hosted the “Compassion Counts: A Shoreline Community Forum Exploring Mental Wellness In an Age of Stress and Anxiety,” at Westbrook High School. Over 200 people of all ages participated in the open exchange. This month, a partnership of 14 organizations will continue the conversation and present “Compassion Counts: Addiction, Hope, Healing, and Recovery” at Middletown High School. Additional forums are being planned for the fall.
By believing in the power of compassion, collaboration and open dialogue, together we are making a real and meaningful difference in the wellness of our communities. For more information about these and other programs call 860-347-0025 or email us at info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org.
This article was previously published in May, 2015, in the Valley Courier.
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