From marketing to fundraising, Kerri Davies is often the public face in the community for the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (CMHA HKPR). However, as she is quick to point out, there are a lot more people behind the scenes who are working to help people with mental health challenges.
“While I may be the public face, the front-line staff are the heart of the organization, supporting the clients we serve,” Kerri says.
Kerri joined the organization in 2013, the same year CMHA Peterborough amalgamated with CMHA Kawartha Lakes.
Led by CEO Mark Graham, who is celebrating 25 years with CMHA this year, the organization now serves four counties, an area roughly the size of Prince Edward Island at 13,000 square kilometres. It has two locations providing direct service — one in Peterborough and one in Lindsay — and employs more than 200 people.
“My role in the organization is Manager of Development,” Kerri explains. “In that capacity, my primary responsibility is fund development, and that is achieved through community engagement, education, health promotion, marketing, and public relations.”
She rhymes off her various roles quickly, but knows that each helps float the organization to its ultimate goal of creating a community of belonging for people with mental health challenges.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Kerri says. “It’s like many years ago when people wouldn’t talk about cancer, and therefore wouldn’t get help. There’s still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness that prevents people from seeking help.”
Kerri’s role has been instrumental in shifting the conversation. When she was hired as a fundraiser, the organization’s goal was to determine if the community would support a capital campaign for a bigger building.
Consultations quickly determined that the community’s understanding and engagement with CMHA HKPR needed to be boosted.
“We needed to get out in the community and make sure we became relevant to everyone,” Kerri says. “After all, mental illness can touch us all.”
From Bell Let’s Talk Day in 2013 when a local radio personality shared his story of living with mental illness, to today when the public voices of living with mental illness are many and varied, Kerri has shared knowledge about mental illness, hope for recovery, and the importance of those struggling with their mental health experiencing a sense of belonging within the community.
Major fundraisers have drawn names such as Michael Landsberg and Clara Hughes. Community events such as Ride Don’t Hide have boosted fundraising efforts so that, in 2016 — the organization’s biggest year yet — it raised half a million dollars. All of that goes to support local services and public education.
And, on today’s horizon, the possibility that the community turned the corner: CMHA HKPR has received initial endorsement from the Local Health Integration Network for a project that could see a Community Mental Health HUB — one roof for many agencies to help simplify navigation of services.
“It’s the most exciting thing on our horizon,” Kerri says. “Six years ago, we needed to expand but didn’t have an engaged community that would support a capital campaign. Today, we are well positioned to engage the community in this big idea.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge has locations at 466 George Street North in Peterborough (705-748-6711 or toll free at 1-866-990-9956) and 33 Lindsay Street South in Lindsay (705-328-2704 or toll free at 1-888-454-8875). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit cmhahkpr.ca. You can also find the organization on Facebook and Twitter.