NAMI Fort Bend – LOOKING BACK
NAMI Fort Bend was founded as Fort Bend Alliance for the Mentally Ill around 1988 by board members: Mark Mitchell, Carolyn Carroll, Margaret Johnson, Margaret Verdeja, Mahmoud Elfeky, Dolores Grabow, and Rich Jesperson. Today, 5 of those 7 board members still pay their annual dues and make contributions to NAMI Fort Bend.
At that time they met at Charter Hospital on First Colony Blvd. in Sugar Land.
Around 1993, a monthly newsletter began to be published.
Family to Family Classes were called Journey of Hope at that time.
Around 1996, the meetings were moved to the First United Methodist Church on Eldridge Road in Sugar Land. A support group was held only once a month beginning at 6:30 with the program afterward. Mark Mitchell was also very active on Texana’s board which was at that time called Riceland Clinic AND they had a psychiatric hospital.
Alliance for the Mentally Ill was changed to National Alliance on Mental Illness in 1999.
Mark Mitchell persevered and kept the group active for many years but in 2003 he came to me and said “I’m too old for this” and his favorite saying “I’ve lost my mind.” Will you take over as president, he asked? I did.
Some of the originating board members wanted a respite also, so Jorge Alonso became treasurer, Mary Johnson became secretary for a short time, then Beverly Davis.
Members Jim and Diane Hall had just finished a Family to Family teacher training in Houston and approached me about resurrecting a class in Fort Bend County since it had been several years since we had a F2F class.
The class filled up so quickly that Jim Hall asked me and a few others if we would relinquish our spots and instead take the next class. My other option he said was to sit on his lap. The room was filled to capacity. Since then, we have tried to have at least one F2F class each year. We now have 6 certified F2F instructors.
Around 2005, Jim and Diane also started a support group at Texana in Richmond. Ken and Pat Sumner took over the facilitation and expanded to two support groups; the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month, then moved to St. Laurence which is a more central location.
In 2006, Larry Davis became president. Under Larry’s direction, NAMI Fort Bend became much more visible in the community with Mental Illness Awareness Week, Health Fairs, fundraisers, organizing socials for our heroes and interacting with county commissioners and city officials; they came to know Larry on a first name basis! During Larry’s tenure we also expanded the Board to 11 members and established a NAMI helpline.
In 2009, Mark Johnson stepped in to complete Larry’s term, and most recently Bev Davis was elected as our new president.
Barbara Stegman became president in 2010, Doris Osei in 2012, and Pat Sumner in 2015.
CIT became a prominent force and NAMI Fort Bend participated in the training of 800 police officers.
-Mary Ann Watson, NAMI Fort Bend President 1999-2006