Wellness/Volunteer Committee stays busy in 2022

Over the past few years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic putting ‘in-person’ gatherings on hold, our department has built an engaged volunteer committee that has participated in numerous fundraisers, mental health awareness events, and volunteering activities. 

“We’ve been so fortunate to have a dedicated core group of volunteer committee members, as well as various providers/staff, residents, and PsiG (psychiatry interest group) med students contribute to our community engagement endeavors,” said Celeste Akers, Co-Chair of the Wellness/Volunteer Committee. “Our volunteer efforts have significantly impacted the well-being of our community and the patients we serve.”

Department of Psychiatry Wellness/Volunteer Committee Co-Chair Celeste Akers collects clothing for an Afgan Refugee Clothing Drive.

The committee’s activities have encompassed efforts of both financial support and direct community engagement. They have raised funds for social service agencies/social causes, sponsored gift drives for families experiencing financial hardship during the holidays, and collected and distributed material goods (hygiene items, clothing, food) to foster children, refugees, and patients in need. Additionally, Akers said the committee members made sure people in under-served communities had access to health and mental health care at community health fairs and showed up to support mental health causes with the annual walks/fundraisers for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). 

Akers is the primary coordinator for Volunteer/Community Engagement events. Some core members who regularly participate with organizing fundraisers and volunteering include Kira Gee, MA; Jen Sparrock, LICSW (PES Manager); Sheritta Strong, MD, DFAPA; Claudia Moore, MD; Steve Salzbrenner, MD; Rebecca Wysoske, MD; Kelly Gassman, PA-C; Randy Vest, RN; Dom Gliko, RN; Ali Krause, RN; Zoe Feilner, PA; Reed Jarecke, PA; Joni Hensley, PA; Laura Fuller, PA; Michaelyn Everhart, MD; Emily Royer, MD; Zach Rupp, MD; Max Lydiatt, MD, Mark Carter (PsIG med student) and many others.

Along with volunteering time to causes, Akers said many providers and staff throughout our department have been super generous with financial support of the numerous fundraisers we’ve sponsored for social service causes and the recipients of those fundraisers and goods. 

“So many organizations and charities have been so thankful for those contributions,” Akers said. 

While so many Department of Psychiatry employees have participated in events, Akers said the committee would welcome more members. 

“We would love to increase the number of providers and staff that participate in the volunteer events regularly, especially now that more people are allowed to gather for functions,” she said. “Belonging to our Volunteer Committee really fosters a great sense of camaraderie among our staff. It allows us to meet people we might not normally cross paths with on a daily basis in our traditional roles at work, especially for people who routinely work remotely.

“Also, it is a great way to network with people at other agencies and health organizations that serve our community. Finally, contributing to the well-being of our patients and the community also provides personal enrichment when you can see the positive impacts our efforts make on people’s lives and how grateful they are for our assistance. In my eyes, giving your time and talents for the benefit of others is one of the best ways to improve your wellness through fostering positive purpose in your life.”

Future Community Engagement events:

Sept. 9th- Suicide Awareness shoe display on campus (gather shoes and donate them to the PES and shelters)

Sept. 17th – AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk at Stinson Park to generate awareness and funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Contact Celeste at cakers@nebraskamed.com for more information. 

Previous 2022 Events

April 24th – Minority Health Fair; distributed MH information (Randy Vest, RN, Dom Gliko, RN, and myself; attended by Dr. Sheritta Strong and Dr. Varun Sharma)

May 19th – Sail on and Fly High suicide awareness and prevention Mental Health fair in Council Bluffs; distributed MH information (Barb Harrison, Celeste Akers)

May 22nd -NAMI Walk; Fundraised for our NE Med/UNMC team and gave out MH information at the event (Jen Sparrock, LICSW, Ali Krause, RN, Dom Gliko, RN)

June 25th- Melanin Market (Minority Owned business and health fair expo); distributed MH information (attended by Reed Jarecke, PA, Zoe Feilner, PA, Kira Gee, MA, and myself)

Wellness Activities we’ve done so far:

May Expressive Writing Workshop (2 sessions) with Steve Langan, prof. from UNO Medical Humanities

June Humanist Drawing Workshop (2 sessions) with Dr. Mark Gilbert, prof. from UNO Art/Medical Humanities

Aug. 18th Zoom VTS Visual Thinking Strategies session facilitated by Dr. Susan Lehmann (geriatric psychiatrist from John Hopkins)

Early Sept. (9/12 and 9/13) Improv Workshop with comedian/actor Timothy Timisiea

Sept. & Oct. (9/20,9/27, 10/4, 10/11) Expressive Acting Workshop with psychologist Louisa Foster, PhD

On-going monthly expressive writing group facilitated by Steve Langan.

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