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SARASOTA: “Without fear I am free to live life to its fullest.” Said Judith MacKay, a member at the Beacon House Drop-In Center of Mental Health Community Centers. She has been diagnosed with mental illness and was willing to address the community- at- large at the agency’s annual event. The numbers of those attending were huge and so was the enthusiasm as approximately 270 guests attended the 10th Annual High Hopes Breakfast on December 10 at Michaels on East. Proceeds from the event are surpassing $55,000.

Ms. MacKay shared her compelling story of abuse, addiction, defeat and the stabilizing process she has encountered as she works with staff at Beacon House to learn to cope with her mental health issues.

“There are many things I must do to take care of myself so I can remain stabilized, or what I prefer to say –stay in remission; see my doctors, take my medications and take care of my daily needs. But most of all, I need to attend Beacon House on a regular basis as my first line of defense against relapse. “

Underwritten by Village-on-the-Isle of Venice, the event focused on heartfelt stories of recovery and daily struggles with mental health illnesses by members who were courageous enough to share recollections their horrors and accomplishments with those attending.

MHCC member and Certified Peer Specialist, Patrick O’Keefe, followed Ms. MacKay to the podium and spoke of his incredible journey from struggling with an addiction to countless hours of study of his illness and certification as a peer specialist so he can help others.

Mental Health Community Centers was founded over 40 years ago and has evolved from a resource center based in Sarasota to an organization with four Drop-in Centers in Sarasota, Venice, North Port and Arcadia that provide daily training, peer assisted liaisons and supportive employment programs. The purpose of the organization is to provide services which assist persons with mental illness develop the skills and coping abilities needed to lead a healthy and productive lifestyle within the community.

Featured in Photos are: Retiring CEO and new CEO of Village on the Isle; Tom Kelly and Joel Anderson, and Executive Director of MHCC; Peter D. Howard, LCSW. Guests of Director of Development; Linda Greaves, were Susan Wood of the Wilson Wood Foundation and Jan Miller of Caldwell Trust Company.

Director of Operations; Jennifer Ernst was joined by law enforcement representatives; Chief Kevin Vespia, Assistant Chief, Michael Pelfrey, and Captain Brian Meinberg. Also included is Bill Camp, Bob Justice, and Terry Nehring.

MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY CENTERS (MHCC). IS A REGISTERED 501c3 WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE #04-3585931 AND WITH FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS # CH38125 A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED BY THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS BY CALLING TOLL FREE 800-435-7352, WITHIN THE STATE OR VISITING: WWW.800HELPFLA.COM. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.”