Friesen honoured for 25 years of service to CMHA
Camrose resident Betty Friesen has dedicated the last 25 years to helping the Canadian Mental Health Association.
She was rewarded for her efforts with a plaque, which was presented by president Craig Martin on March 27.
"Thanks for joining us in recognizing a woman who is not only very special to CMHA, but is also the reason we exist in the community today. Betty has been here since the beginning. Truthfully speaking, she was here before the organization began," said Craig.
In 1987, Betty initiated the development of a steering committee to look at opening a group home for individuals experiencing mental illness. This committee was successful in its mission and the group home opened in 1988, with six beds supporting individuals in need of solid and consistent mental health support. The group home existed under the umbrella of CMHA Red Deer and the members of the steering committee soon moved on to other roles after the opening of the group home. This left Betty as the sole board member at times, working towards building an organization that could meet the needs that she saw in our community.
"Over the years, Betty has shown tremendous leadership and was able to bring on other caring individuals from the community. While many have come and gone, leaving their mark and helping the organization to grow, Betty has remained as a steady cornerstone," added Craig. "Our organization has since grown into its own regional office, a branch of the provincial CMHA. In addition, we have seen the development of a variety of programs and services; some of which have dissolved as a result of changes in funding priorities and others that have evolved with the changing needs of our community."
Today CMHA offers six main programs with about 20 staff, supporting individuals experiencing mental illness, brain injuries, and developmental disabilities. It is a well known and reputable agency within our community, and is dedicated to helping those in need, as well as increasing education and reducing the stigma around mental illness.
"Betty, without you, none of this would be possible. We would like to thank you for your 25 years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to mental health, our community, and our organization," continued Craig. "Your efforts, advocacy, and passion have had an immense impact on countless lives. You are truly an inspiration to us all and you give us hope that with determination and compassion, we can continue to create positive change on a political, social, and personal level."
The president, on behalf of those affected by mental illness, the family and friends who support them, the community, and finally the Canadian Mental Health Association East Central Region, Craig presented the plaque, as a small token of gratitude to an ardent and tenacious woman who has helped to pave the way for a future of acceptance, support, and mental well-being. "Betty, words cannot capture our appreciation and respect. We are truly grateful for all you have, and will continue to bring to our organization and to the lives of the individual's we serve," said Craig.
Musician David Thomas said "Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls."
Craig replied, "Betty, I can only imagine that yours is illuminated with pages such as these."
Betty said the 25 years have gone by so fast. "I wonder where the years have gone. But, when I look back at where this organization started, I know we have come a long, long way. Although I was there near the start, Colleen (Vennard, the executive director) has been the driving force. She has the knowledge and the push to make things happen. All of the staff has dedication and I'm so proud to be a part of it. I'm proud of everyone of you."