New executive director at Compeer of Greater Buffalo talks about the agency’s mission and the concept of ‘healing power of friendship’
1. Tell me a little about your background in social work and why you decided to take on this role with Compeer Buffalo.
I have about 25 years of experience in working in the nonprofit sector, specifically serving children and youth in human services. I came over to Compeer from Cradle Beach [Camp] where I was the CEO for the last nine years. We served 1,200 children and youth in three programs. I took this position at Compeer because of the potential that the agency has in growing in not only the WNY market but also nationally. I don’t think a lot of people know much about Compeer, so increasing our awareness will be crucial.
2. Compeer’s mission statement describes the people you serve as “children, adults, seniors and veterans who are striving for good mental health and optimum quality of life?” Could you tell me about the range of mental health issues that affect the people Compeer serves?
We serve a wide array of individuals with varying degrees of mental health challenges. Some examples are: anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, bipolar, phobias, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.
3. Explain to me the “healing power of friendship,” and how it helps the people Compeer serves.
Healthy relationships with a friend or mentor is crucial to helping people who are struggling with a mental illness. People want and need to know that someone cares about them, understands them, and is there to support them. When a person is suffering from a mental illness they feel very alone and scared. They are afraid to tell anyone because of the stigma that society has put on people with a mental illness. Having a true friend/mentor who does not judge them but instead can relate to their struggles is crucial to helping get that person’s life back on track. Nearly one in four adults and one in five children suffer from a mental illness at any given time.
4. How many people are currently getting help from Compeer?
Currently a little over 300 people are getting help through Compeer.
5. What are your plans for the future of the agency?
Our plans are to grow the program locally to serve the hundreds of people who are on our waiting list. We will do this by greatly increasing our volunteer recruitment and agency awareness in the WNY region. At the same time we will be looking to grow our revenue in order to support our agency programming growth. Compeer Buffalo just recently merged with Compeer, Inc., the national office of Compeer. That merger means that the Buffalo office is also the national headquarters of Compeer, Inc. Compeer, Inc. oversees 49 Compeer offices across the world. Most of these offices or affiliates are in the USA, but we do have some in Canada and Australia as well. In NYS we have 20 Compeer affiliates. We will be looking at how to best support these affiliates and add more affiliates across the country. The potential for growth is very large and we are excited by this.
Interview by Tim Fenster