Hope, health, acceptance and community make up NAMI Clackamas’s vision for everyone impacted by mental health issues. That same vision has led the organization’s efforts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally founded as a fully volunteer-run organization, NAMI Clackamas is now staffed, but still relies on strong volunteer commitment to support and advocate for the people the organization serves. When Oregon started to shut down, volunteers called all their members and everyone who attended support groups to ask them how they were doing. Volunteers also offered to call back regularly to check in if desired and some folks took them up on the offer.
Conducting listening sessions with Latino/a/x community members, adding resources on COVID-19 to all virtual meetings and support groups, and hosting Facebook Live sessions that blended information on mental health, COVID-19 and where to find help were some of the other methods NAMI Clackamas used to help people stay safe.
“One of the things that we did, again with help of volunteers, was we put together some backpacks, Adidas donated a bunch of backpacks,” said Michele Veenker, Executive Director of NAMI Clackamas.
Backpacks were provided to people who were impacted by mental health and addiction issues. There were three kinds to choose from. One had cleaning supplies and masks, another was full of stress release type items for people who felt isolated and the third was full of activities that parents could use to keep their kids entertained.
NAMI has wanted to host a vaccination event for some time, so when Clackamas County contacted Veenker to ask for help reaching people with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders, NAMI jumped at the opportunity to host an event.
“We want this to be a community event and not just a NAMI event, to include some of the other peer mental health and addiction serving communities,” Veenker said. “One of the other nonprofits came up with the name, ‘Give it your best shot’ and they’re going to help get the word out there. A volunteer designed the t-shirts.”
With a long history of working with people who are impacted by mental illness and/or substance addiction, NAMI Clackamas is well-situated to offer vaccinations. Veenker pointed out that community-based organizations (CBOs) are “trusted advocates, trusted people that can help deliver the message. So, we were excited to be part of that.”
“We wanted to make it more of a celebration, something exciting and wonderful, we’re going to get back to normal, we’re going to get healthy again,” said Veenker. The Give it your Best Shot celebration will feature food from Poblano Peppers, live music, free t-shirts, an art show, a kids’ corner and — of course — COVID-19 vaccinations. Gift cards will also be offered to those receiving their vaccines.
This walk-in vaccination event will take place on Thursday, July 15 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Providence Willamette Falls Education Center, 519 15th Street in Oregon City. See the flyer below for more details.