SARASOTA, Fla. — Hundreds of local residents devoted to helping those in need of mental health services will gather for the ninth annual High Hopes Breakfast of the Mental Health Community Centers at 8:30 a.m. on Thurs., Dec. 4. Almost $600,000 has been raised at the past seven breakfasts, with all of the money going to support the organization’s strategically located centers and their extensive support groups, training programs and events, all geared toward defeating the unfortunate stigma attached to mental illness.
Headquartered in Sarasota, Mental Health Community Centers, Inc. operates four different drop-in centers that offer a range of resources to those suffering from mental or disabling emotional illnesses. With locations in Sarasota, North Port, Venice and Arcadia, the nonprofit provides a friendly and caring atmosphere, peer counseling, referral services, rehabilitation programs, training classes, social events, employment opportunities and more to any adult facing a mental health challenge.
Despite a number of tragic events that have brought the need for mental health services to light, the stigma of mental illnesses lingers, and the Community Centers are actively fighting to reverse the perception that those suffering from mental health problems are dangerous or unable to remain in their communities. And the need for services remains strong. Last year, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that between 40 and 50 residents visit the Venice center each day while 50 to 60 drop in at the Sarasota location each day.
“Sadly, mental illness has been in the news countless times in recent years,” says Kirk Pinkerton, PA real estate, banking and corporate law attorney Bradley W. Hogreve, who has served on the Mental Health Community Centers’ board for three years. “Whether it’s the tragic mass shootings we’ve all been horrified by or the challenges our veterans face when returning home from combat, the need for strong mental health services in this country has become overwhelmingly clear. But unfortunately, many in our community are afraid to come forward, and many more are simply unaware of the help available to them.”
In addition to the extensive free services the drop-in centers themselves provide, the Mental Health Community Centers also connect those in need to other resources in the community, like substance abuse counseling, suicide prevention, support for children and families and much more.
Hogreve became involved with the organization in part because he wanted to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. He says the huge need for support services is not fully recognized by lawmakers, or by the public. Which is where the High Hopes Breakfast comes in.
This year’s free event, expected to draw hundreds to Michael’s on East, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota, will feature a personal story of someone helped by the Mental Health Community Centers, along with a request for support from those in attendance. The annual meal is the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and contributes greatly to the organization’s bottom line.
The nonprofit is hoping to grow in the coming year to meet the expanding need, something it can only do with broad community support.
“While many with mental illnesses are still struggling with the difficulty of admitting they need help and seeking it out, each year, I find more and more acceptance and understanding of mental health problems,” Hogreve says. “A big part of tackling mental illness is just discussing it openly and candidly and then working toward treatment. I’d bet that most everyone in Sarasota knows someone who struggles with mental illness or someone who has a family member or close friend who does. I’m proud to be part of an organization that is bringing an issue that’s often hidden or covered up out into the light.”
The Mental Health Community Centers’ High Hopes Breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. on Thurs., Dec. 4, at Michael’s on East, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The event is free, but registration is required. To attend, contact Bunny Coelingh at 941-953-3477 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Community Centers, visit mhcci.com or call 941-953-3477.
About Kirk Pinkerton, PA
One of Sarasota’s oldest law firms, Kirk-Pinkerton, PA was founded in Sarasota as Williford & Kirk in 1926 and represented both John Ringling and his family in the ensuing decades, focusing on real estate acquisition and land development. Ever since its founding, the firm has played a major role in the development of the Sarasota area and has helped shape the future of the region. Today, the firm is home to 15 attorneys who practice in a wide range of fields. Kirk-Pinkerton’s office is located at 240 S. Pineapple Ave., Sixth Floor, Sarasota. For more information, call 941-364-2400 or visit kirkpinkerton.com.