Opportunity, Inc. has been a Town of Palm Beach United Way partner agency since 1945. They offer affordable, quality preschool childcare, educational programming and parent support to low income families, single parent families and families in crisis.
One program funded by the Town of Palm Beach United Way is Early Childhood Education. The program for at-risk children delivers comprehensive early childhood education that prepares disadvantaged children to begin public school on an equal footing.
Our monthly Volunteer Spotlight recognizes Town of Palm Beach United Way volunteers who are passionate, inspiring and dedicated. They are individuals committed to transforming lives and who invest in our vision of building healthy and strong communities.
Harriet Miller has been a volunteer at the Town of Palm Beach United Way for the past 22 years. She is a Vice Chairmen on our Board of Trustees and the Chairman of the Treasure Chest Committee. Harriet has previously served on the Alexis de Tocqueville and Red Feather committees as well as on our Allocation committee. We sat down with Harriet to ask her a few questions about volunteering at the Town of Palm Beach United Way and what it means to her.
Today is World Mental Health Day. This day is dedicated to help raise awareness of mental health issues and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health issues.
Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, economic status, or race. Each year, more than 57 million Americans (that’s 1 in 4) are affected by one or more psychiatric disorders. Mental health disorders are common and treatable. While some are mild, the range includes serious disorders such as schizophrenia. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Anxiety affects more than 44 million people, and can range from generalized anxiety disorder, to phobias, to post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression which can affect anyone, at any age.
With proper treatment and support, people with mental health issues can live full and productive lives. However, instead of compassion and acceptance, people with mental health disorders frequently face discrimination and stigma, often leading to loneliness and isolation.
Like many other United Ways, the Town of Palm Beach United Way has identified mental health issues either as a lead issue or as a component of other strategies – whether it’s addressing homelessness, early childhood development and school readiness, or other education, income and health issues.
One program of several that is funded by the Town of Palm Beach United Way is Center for Child Counseling’s Community Social-Emotional Wellness program. Chris, a young boy with a long history of domestic violence, family instability, attending a childcare center in West Palm Beach, was referred for counseling to address extreme behavioral issues in the classroom. Teachers reported that Chris talked about guns all the time, made guns out of blocks, and put his play gun to the heads of other children, making statements such as “you will be dead in 48 hours.” Chris displayed extremely violent behaviors, including the use of profanity. Shortly after entering counseling, Chris witnessed a deadly shooting on the way to school. Chris was able to receive on-site services through the Center for Child Counseling’s Community Social-Emotional Wellness Program immediately. Over the course of six months, Chris’ behaviors shifted dramatically. He started making positive choices, using positive words, and became a role model in the classroom. This success doesn’t stop with Chris. His grandmother, a teacher at the childcare center, was initially skeptical about services and how they would impact her grandson. After seeing the positive change in in Chris, she became engaged and an advocate for services.
Lisa* came to Aid To Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) through their Outreach program. She had been suffering from emotional, verbal and psychological abuse from her husband. Lisa emigrated from Brazil and her husband was promising to petition for her to become a permanent resident. However, part of his abuse was to delay this process and continually telling her she was “nothing and that she is no one in this country.” Because of her participation in AVDA’s trauma-informed support group she learned to process and manage her feelings about the abuse she suffered and to rebuild her self-esteem. The staff at AVDA tell us it has been an honor to witness her transformation into a strong, independent woman who is successfully caring for herself and her 10 year old son.
Stories like this happen every single day not only here in Palm Beach County, but all over the country. Lisa was one of the lucky ones – victims of domestic violence are not always this fortunate.