Volunteer Spotlight – August 2020: Mark Anderson

Anderson is a volunteer with the Annual Conference on Mental Health

The 20th Annual Conference on Mental Health, “Inviting Positivity in Uncertain Times,” will be held virtually this year on Sunday, Oct. 18. The keynoter will be KARE 11 producer and former anchor Bryan Piatt, who will share his story, of living with OCD and anxiety, and creating a work and life balance. Click here for more information on this year’s event!

Mark Anderson, a longtime volunteer with the conference, recently spoke about his role.

What’s your current volunteer role at JFCS?

I am a member of the planning committee for the Annual Conference on Mental Health.

How long have you been volunteering with JFCS?

It has been at least 10 years. 

What motivated you to volunteer with JFCS?

I have known Laurie Kramer, (who co-founded the conference and coordinated it every year through 2018) since the 1990s when I was on the U.S. Senate staff for Paul Wellstone. I worked primarily on his agenda for health care reform, mental health reform and advocacy for respect for human rights.

The conferences grew out of the tragic death of Barbara Schneider in 2000 in an officer-involved shooting in her home, when she was experiencing a mental health crisis. As Executive Director of the Barbara Schneider Foundation, which focuses on training, education and advocacy for the de-criminalization of mental illness, it seemed a natural to join the committee. So I called Laurie and she invited me to join.

Tell us about your volunteer experience with JFCS.

I do a lot of work with criminal justice professionals, hospital staff and others who respond to mental health crises in their work, but this conference is unique. It is a free conference for anyone who is interested – it is welcoming to all community members and gives me a chance to be directly involved with the community. Besides the committee meetings, I have a table at the resource fair each year and help on the conference day, with breakouts and the other activities. (Though some activities will be scaled back this year due to it being a virtual event.)

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with JFCS?

I very much enjoy the planning committee meetings, once a month, and the occasional committee meeting in between. I enjoy all the different perspectives and backgrounds people bring, and the lively and really joyful atmosphere of the meetings.

Anything else to share?

I have gotten more out of this work than I have given. Thanks for JFCS for supporting this effort. Mental health issues touch all our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and classrooms. We are changing our culture to be more open and caring about these issues. It’s an honor to be part of this work.