Can we count on you to include NAMI Fox Valley in your year-end giving?

Maren Peterson

Maren Peterson

By Maren Peterson, Executive Director:

Over recent years, our community has begun to recognize that mental health is a critical, basic-needs issue that is central to empowering individuals and families to survive and thrive in the Fox Valley.

Studies consistently have shown that treatment works and that recovery is possible, but how do we break down the stigma that keeps people from seeking help? How do we support our community members who are struggling? On a broader level, how do we ensure that mental health advocates have a place at the table for important community discussions? Those questions, among others, fall uniquely within NAMI Fox Valley’s area of service and expertise.

Last year, NAMI Fox Valley’s support, outreach, education, and advocacy programs directly touched over 13,000 participants and attendees in the Fox Valley and surrounding area. The following bullets set forth just a few highlights:

  • We graduated 84 individuals from our signature, 12-week Family-to-Family education course and 21 individuals from our 10-week Peer-to-Peer course.
  • We offered 27 support group meetings per month, including 324 unique community participants, most of whom attended multiple meetings.
  • We provided 20 full days of school-based mental health and suicide prevention education to 2,209 students.
  • We held 145 mental health outreach trainings and presentations attended by 8,982 community members.
  • Our downtown office fielded 1,633 contacts from individuals seeking support or resource connection.
  • We provided 132 hours of advocacy as a participant in Outagamie County’s Mental Health Court team.
  • Over its first full fiscal year of operations (July 2015 through June 2016), our peer run respite center, Iris Place, welcomed 128 unique guests for 171 guest stays and provided 3,589 contacts via phone.

Looking ahead, we are excited for some significant new projects and collaborations that will enable us to reach and serve additional, particularly vulnerable constituencies. In the coming year, we are tremendously excited to fully roll out our new Latino mental health programming (in collaboration with Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley) and to work together with the Housing Partnership of the Fox Valley to launch a transitional housing program for young adults who live with mental illness.

We depend heavily on contributions from community members like you to support our programs.  Can we count on you to include NAMI Fox Valley in your year-end giving? Please use the support tab for a one-time contribution or to become a Mental Health Sustainer. Know that whatever you are able to give is the right amount for you, and that every dollar will be valued and will remain in the Fox Valley.

Thank you for your support of NAMI Fox Valley as we work together with you to pursue our vision of a community, free of stigma, that supports and promotes mental health and recovery.

Join us for our “Strike Out Stigma” Fall Campaign

By Maren Peterson, Executive Director

Maren Peterson

Maren Peterson

It’s that time of year again and I am excited. From late August through October of each year, NAMI FV friends from across the Valley and beyond participate in our annual campaign to raise funds that keep our programs going all year long — and we are thrilled this year to be kicking off what we hope will be our most successful campaign ever!

The coolest thing about our campaign is that most of the funds raised do not come from big donors, but from smaller amounts contributed by a large and diverse array of community members who recognize the importance of mental health in the Fox Cities and give what they are able. And that is where you come in! This campaign truly is a grassroots effort that depends entirely on your commitment to reach out to your networks to make sure they know why NAMI FV’s work is so critical and to ask them to pitch in to sustain our presence in the community.

Once again this year, participation in our annual “Strike Out Stigma” Bowl-a-Thon is a great way to join the action. But don’t let the name fool you! You don’t have to be a fan of bowling to participate in our campaign! For those who do want to bowl, our bowling party on October 8, 2016, will be a fun celebration of all of your great work as we begin to wind down the campaign. So, by all means, form a fundraising team that also will be your bowling team, and get ready to make the pins topple! (Please note that, for those who do plan to bowl on October 8, you will be asked to select whether you wish to bowl at the 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. time slot.) But if bowling isn’t your idea of a good Saturday, you can (and should!) still participate as a fundraiser! Either way, the first step is to visit to register as a participant and get your own fundraising page. You can join an existing fundraising team when you register or (better yet!) create your own team and ask friends to join you! Or, if you don’t want to be on a team and just want to participate as an individual fundraiser, that’s okay, too!

After you register, you can share the link to your personal fundraising page via email or social media along with notes encouraging your friends to help you reach your fundraising goal. You also can collect contributions in person via cash or check that you can either drop off at our office or turn in on Bowl-a-Thon day.  And keep your eyes on your email along the way, as we’ll be offering lots of incentive prizes to encourage and reward you over the course of the campaign!

On behalf of everyone at NAMI FV, and especially the more than 13,000 community members we directly served over the past year, THANK YOU for participating in our 2016 campaign! Our annual campaign is our second largest source of programming funds and YOU are what makes that possible.

Introducing Dora Fabian, NAMI Fox Valley’s Latino Advocate

NAMI Fox Valley is pleased to introduce Dora Fabian, who has been hired as the agency’s new Latino Advocate. Dora is charged with strengthening the agency’s relationship with the Latino community and decreasing barriers to accessing peer-recovery mental health services.


Dora Fabian

In her new role, Dora will recruit and develop a team of Spanish-speaking facilitators and educators who will work to address mental health stigma by providing education on mental illness and peer-facilitated services. With a background as a bilingual domestic violence case manager, Dora is skilled in culturally-competent practices and is excited to make mental health support and resources more accessible to the Latino community.

Her efforts are already off to a successful start. July is National Minority Mental Health Month and Dora hosted a celebration July 17 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Omro which had more than 30 attendees from the Latino community. During the event, Dora presented facts about mental health challenges and provided an overview of NAMI Fox Valley’s programs and services.

Ana and Juan Valdez also spoke from personal experience about their family’s journey dealing with a loved one’s mental challenge and the benefits of having attended NAMI’s Family- to-Family education program.

This just the first step as Dora will be working closely with established Latino community agencies’ that are already serving women and extended families in an effort to better address mental health issues.

This new position is made possible with a grant from the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. Thank you, Women’s Fund, for supporting NAMI Fox Valley as we work to expand our support and education programs in the Latino community!

Join us in Appleton’s Houdini Plaza May 2 to ‘Stand Up Against Stigma’

NAMI Fox Valley, in partnership with several area organizations, is pleased to announce the community’s fourth-annual Mentalstand-up-logo-225-px Health Awareness Month kickoff, planned for 12 noon, Monday, May 2, in downtown Appleton’s Houdini Plaza.

We invite you to stop by Houdini Plaza over the lunch hour for a 45-minute program where we will be joined by community leaders, mental health supporters, Gannett Wisconsin Media, and 91.1 The Avenue, as we proclaim our community’s commitment to raise awareness about mental illness, promote mental health for all, and stand up against stigma.

This is the fourth year that NAMI Fox Valley, in partnership with N.E.W. Mental Health Connection, ThedaCare, Affinity Health, and other agencies, have joined efforts to kick off May Mental Health Awareness Month and bring the community together with the goal of improving our community’s mental health literacy, breaking down the negative stereotypes surrounding mental health disorders, and creating a supportive and caring community for families and individuals affected by mental illness.

We will be filling Houdini Plaza with chairs, with one in five marked with a green mental health awareness ribbon. We will be invitingstill-fighting-flyer-v2 attendees and passersby throughout the day to write anonymous messages and tape them to the chairs, giving voice to those who have been touched by mental illness, whether writing about their own experience, or in honor or memory of others.

We will also be selling green awareness ribbons for $1 and t-shirts for $10. Proceeds will benefit future May Mental Health Awareness Month activities. Be sure to check our website throughout the month of May for a complete listing of awareness events and mental health educational opportunities.

We’d like to give a special thanks to the Leadership Fox Cities’ “Green Team,” which is helping lead this year’s campaign. The team has secured sponsorships for billboards and bus signs and plans to help us distribute 10,000 green mental health awareness ribbons throughout the Fox Cities!

We’d also like to thank 91.1 The Avenue for selecting us as their “mission partner” throughout the month of May. Be sure to tune in to 91.1 The Avenue throughout the month to hear our public service announcements and live interviews with NAMI Fox Valley staff and volunteers. Habush, Habush & Rottier has generously provided a grant to the 91.1 The Avenue in support of nonprofits, including NAMI Fox Valley.

As a mission partner, NAMI Fox Valley will be the featured nonprofit at the radio station’s River Roots 2016 concert planned for Tuesday, May 24 at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay. The music lineup includes performances by Kyle Megna and the Monsoons, Peridot, and Dead Horses. Visit to purchase tickets.

Join us March 5: How to tell our stories of mental illness and recovery

Has your life been affected by mental illness? What is your story? Did you know that people with lived experience of mental health challenges who strategically share their stories is one of the most effective (and evidence-based) ways to reduce stigma?

honest-open-proud-optNAMI Fox Valley, in partnership with The Center for Suicide Awareness and St. Paul Elder Services, Inc., is pleased to offer “Honest, Open and Proud,” a free workshop designed to explore the decisions we make when we talk about our stories related to mental illness and recovery.

This is a great opportunity for individuals and family members affected by mental illness to learn how to share their stories and provide education that helps eliminate the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination that make up the stigma of mental health conditions.

The workshop is planned for 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Sat., March 5 and will be held at St. Paul Elder Services, 316 East 14th St., Kaukauna, WI 54130. To register, contact Ann Jadin at or (920) 954-1550. Click here for the flyer.

Third-Annual Bowl-a-Thon a great success!

Thank you! We did it!
NAMI Fox Valley’s third-annualBowl-a-Thon, held Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Super Bowl in Appleton was another great success, and a lot of fun! We exceeded our $75,000 fundraising goal and raised $82,000,  thanks to amazing support from our community.
All told, 36 bowling teams, nearly 300 bowlers, more than two dozen sponsors and about 40 volunteers helped us raise funds, raise awareness and put on this amazing, family-friendly event for our community.
We are so appreciative of everyone’s efforts! We are grateful to have such an amazing community of friends, supporters and sponsors who believe in our mission and the work we do to support and empower people affected be mental illness.

Iris Place open and serving guests

NAMI Fox Valley’s new Peer Run Respite, Iris Place, which opened its doors in April in Appleton, has been welcoming guests, providing 24/7 peer support through hundreds of phone calls and is making an impact.
“I don’t know what I would have done without this place at such a crucial time of my life,” wrote one guest, following a stay this past summer. “I appreciated the staff being so comforting. This was like a sanctuary, a place for me to process, a place of hope, strength and encouragement. I felt like I could be myself, grow through my own strength and I felt like I belonged. I couldn’t have done it without this place.”
Iris Place, the state’s first peer run respite center, offers a short-term stay in a home-like environment with peer support for adults who want and need peer support to navigate a time of increased stress, emotional distress or crisis related to trauma, mental health and/or substance abuse. Iris Place’s mission is to provide a safe and welcoming environment that offers an opportunity for individuals who are experiencing emotional distress or crisis to grow and change through the support of others with lived experience.
“For so many of us, this is a dream come true,” said Karen Iverson Riggers, Iris Place director. “It has blown away all of the expectations we had, and it’s the place many of us wish we would have had during our recovery journeys.” Iris Place is open 24/7/365 and is staffed by a team of nine peer companions, including Karen, who are trained to provide peer support, connect guests to community resources, and support guests as they develop their recovery plans. All of the staff have lived experience related to mental health, substance abuse and/or trauma and have received training on using their experience to support others.
Iris Place is located at 1213 S. Matthias St. in the former convent and home to Head Start on the grounds of St. Bernadette Parish. To date, Iris Place has served 40 guests. In addition, Iris Place staff have fielded more than 400 calls from individuals looking for peer support or information about Iris Place.
“We expected to be full from the minute we opened our doors,” says Karen. “But what has surprised us the most is that the majority of work we do is peer support phone calls. The vast majority of people who call us are interested in a stay, but after 20 minutes or a half-hour talking to us, they say ‘I’m good, and knowing that you are here for me is really helpful.’” For many people, added Karen, having someone to talk to who understands their journey is very validating for them.
“We’ve had so many people thank us for listening and say it’s the first time someone has seen and acknowledged their pain,” she said.

Introducing Maren Peterson, Executive Director

Welcome to Maren Peterson, who joined NAMI Fox Valley in late April as the new Executive Director.

Maren Peterson

Maren Peterson

Maren returned to Appleton, her hometown, in 2014 after spending the past 15 years as a law student and attorney in New York City.  She says she is thrilled to have the opportunity to use her advocacy and management background to build on NAMI Fox Valley’s success and work toward increasing the agency’s impact and sustainability.

Maren has addressed mental health issues as a consumer, caregiver, and volunteer throughout her life and is a long-time NAMI supporter. She is passionately devoted to eliminating stigma and to empowering those whose lives are affected by mental illness.

“I’m so proud to be part of NAMI Fox Valley and look forward to building upon its legacy of transforming lives, changing attitudes, and advocating for improved access to quality mental health care in our community,” Maren said.

Key to her approach, she added, will be a systematic and thoughtful plan both to develop new community relationships and collaborations and to carefully steward current supporters and friends.

Maren is particularly excited to partner with other nonprofits in the community to find synergies that will enhance NAMI Fox Valley’s and other agencies’ abilities to drive forward complementary missions. She is a firm believer in the power of collaboration and has already hit the ground running on several community initiatives in which the agency is involved.

Maren has been busy working collaboratively with Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley, Catalpa Health, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin and the Hortonville Area School district to bring the groundbreaking “E3” (Engage, Education, Empower) Mental Health and Wellness Program to the Hortonville area schools this year.  NAMI Fox Valley will be offering its “Ending the Silence” mental health education program students in the district, as well as offering a teen support group and parent sharing group.

Maren has also been enjoying working on the Mental Health Ministries Initiative with Samaritan Counseling, and the community’s Children’s Mental Health Initiative, which is being led by N.E.W. Mental Health Connection.

In the few months since Maren stepped into her position, she has been grateful for the opportunity to meet numerous friends and supporters of NAMI Fox Valley.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting the agency’s many volunteers, instructors and supporters,” she said. “I am eager to personally talk with as many of our friends and supporters as possible.”

For those who would like to meet Maren, she encourages those who live in the area to attend any of the agency’s open houses and other gatherings that will be held throughout the year – or, even better, to call her to arrange a coffee date.

When not working or volunteering, Maren enjoys relaxing with friends and family, listening to music of all types (but admittedly with a special bent toward folk), and being a bookworm. You’ll often run into Maren somewhere in downtown Appleton lost in the pages of her latest library find.

NAMI Fox Valley celebrates banner year, award recipients at Annual Meeting

By Wendy Magas, Communications Director

Thank you to everyone who turned out Feb. 5 for our Report to the Community and Annual Awards Celebration held at the Grand Meridian in Appleton.

It was exciting to have such a large crowd – more than 125 people – gathered for the event as we celebrated NAMI Fox Valley’s 2014 accomplishments and our award recipipents.

“2014 was an unprecedented year for our agency,” Executive Director Beth Clay told the crowd. “NAMI Fox Valley served more than 7,000 commuity members with our education, support, advocacy and outreach programs. In the past four years, we have increased the number of community members we’ve served by 500 percent.”
Beth credited the visionary leadership of her predecessors and a supportive community for building the foundation for the agency’s continued success.

“Thanks to the visionary leadership of the directors before me, Marilyn Mosher, Mary Jo Wiegratz, Karen Aspenson, dedicated boards of directors, committed and generous funders, a forward thinkging community, thousands of amazing volunteers and the love and belief behind the mission, our affiliate stands out as one of the most robust, activing, and thriving of all NAMI affiliates, in Wisconsin and in the nation,” Beth added.
In 2014, the agency welcomed five new staff members to its main office, and also hired nine staff members under the state grant for the Peer Run Respite.

Meanwhile, we offered a record number of education classes that impacted a record number of of participants. We held five Family-to-Family classes and five Peer-to-Peer classes, the most our agency has offered in a year.

“A record number of 89 participants graduated from Family-to-Family and a total of 30 mental health consumers graduated from Peer-to-Peer,” Beth said.
“We are keeping families and consumers off waiting lists and getting them into classes, allowing them to receive the support and eductaion they need.”

The agency also offered 2,200 hours of peer, family and parent advocate support – one on one to those in need.

“Just as we did in the earliest days, when you called NAMI Fox Valley, you talked to someone who’d walked in your shoes,” Beth said. “No matter how large our building or how many people we serve, or how many staff members we have, that is the heart of who we are and what we do.”

NAMI Fox Valley's 2014 Award Recipients include Norma Czarnik, Brian Bezier, Julie Caflisch, Tood Freeman, Ryan Kust, Linda Speering and Bud Broussard, and the YMCA of the Fox Cities. Click here to read their stories.

NAMI Fox Valley’s 2014 Award Recipients include Norma Czarnik, Brian Bezier, Julie Caflisch, Tood Freeman, Ryan Kust, Linda Speering and Bud Broussard, and the YMCA of the Fox Cities. Click here to read their stories.

Following Beth’s Report to the Community, NAMI Fox Valley staff celebrated the 2014-2015 award recipients, including Brian Bezier, Julie Caflisch, Norma Czarnik, Todd Freeman, Linda Speering and Bud Broussard, YMCA of the Fox Cites, United Way Fox Cities, and Image Studios.

At the end of the evening, NAMI Fox Valley staff also paid a short tribute to Beth, who had announced a few weeks prior that she was resigning from the agency.

“Tonight, we were asked by our ‘boss’ not to shine the light on her four amazing years of service that has led this agency to new heights,” Paula Verrett told the crowed. “Beth, you see, is a humble, servant leader, who leads by example and takes pleasure in serving others and the common good.

“She is not one to call attention to herself and her many successes. And tonight, she wanted all of the focus on to be our NAMI friends, our NAMI supporters, and our award recipients. But since she’s leaving anyway, we figured we couldn’t get into too much trouble by paying a small tribute to a wonderful boss, an inspiring community leader, and an amazing human being who is touching lives, affecting positive change, blazing trails and making ripples in the community and beyond that will be felt for years to come. We want to thank you, Beth, for all of your love, your hard work and your dedication.”

Julie Caflisch, a longtime NAMI Fox Valley volunteer and support group facilitator, is brought to tears as she listens to her tribute as the recipient of the “Tammy Bradley Heart of NAMI Award.” The award was created in memory of Tammy, a former NAMI Fox Valley employee and passionate advocate. Tammy and Julie were also dear friends.

Julie Caflisch, a longtime NAMI Fox Valley volunteer and support group facilitator, is brought to tears as she listens to her tribute as the recipient of the “Tammy Bradley Heart of NAMI Award.” The award was created in memory of Tammy, a former NAMI Fox Valley employee and passionate advocate. Tammy and Julie were also dear friends.



Peer Run Respite is on its way in the Fox Cities

By Karen Iverson Riggers, CPS
Peer Run Respite Director

karen_schillerProgress continues toward NAMI Fox Valley’s Peer Run Respite Center. I had the privilege of attending  the Alternatives Conference in Orlando (funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services dministration).

Alternatives is the largest peer/consumer/survivor mental health conference organized by and for peers. The theme was “Creating the Future: Change, Challenge, Opportunity” with speakers and workshops focusing on the opportunities and challenges of creating change in our mental health systems.

I had the opportunity to connect with the national network of Peer Run Respites currently operating or in the planning phase. The National Empowerment Center has a section of its website dedicated to crisis alternatives and Peer Run Respite and Warmlines:

The learning and connections will be incredibly helpful in implementing this peer-run crisis alternative in our state. With the additions of Val Neff (House Manager), Kara Patterson (Program Coordinator) and John Rose (Guest Services Coordinator) to our Peer Run Respite staff, we are excited to move forward in making this dream a reality!

We attended a week-long Intentional Peer Support (IPS) training along with Paula Verrett and Evelyn Koehnke from our NAMI Fox Valley staff, and Peer Run Respite staff from GEP (Grassroots mpowerment Project) and SOAR Case Management, which are the other two agencies implementing respites in our state. IPS was founded by Shery Mead and focuses on thinking about and inviting powerfully transformative relationships among people.

IPS emphasizes mutual conversations and creating new ways of “knowing” through dialogue. IPS is about building stronger, healthier, interconnected communities and will be instrumental in helping us move toward Peer Run Respite as a healing, trauma-informed alternative to support peers in moving toward what they want versuswhat they want to stop or avoid doing.

We are close to securing a property in Appleton for the respite center. The lease is under review by the property owner and we are excited about what the potential space can offer. Additional staff positions for the respite will be posted in mid-December. Because the respite will be staffed 24/7/365, we will be offering Peer Companion staff opportunities for individuals with lived experience. Watch our website for updates and more information.

The Peer Run Respite Advisory Board will be responsible for planning, implementation and evaluation of our respite. The advisory board meets monthly and includes workgroups on policy, property and programs. We are thankful for their dedication as well as the variety of community stakeholders at the table to help support the respite. The advisory board is peer-led, meaning that more than half are individuals with lived experience.

Get Involved! Volunteer or join one of our Peer Run Respite work groups. We are also holding a contest to name our Peer Run Respite center and develop its logo. Submit your name and/or logo idea to prrname@gmail. com by Dec. 19. Questions? Contact Karen at or (920) 954-1550.