Times are changing and so are we. One thing is certain; we are transitioning in many ways. The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink and adjust the way we live, work, and play. It has also changed how the Foundation interacts with our communities. Our marquee events are being reinvented into a new mode of operating. For the first time in our history, we will host the Mental Health Champions’ Banquet virtually in October and the Real Voices-Real Choices Consumer Conference in August will take the form of a series of virtual events. Although it is a change from tradition, it will allow us to reach more people with our message, building hope and changing attitudes.
The Foundation staff and volunteers have been amazing and skillful in adapting through this time of transition. They worked hard to implement events in a new creative way. I cannot thank Patty and her teams enough for these efforts as we work to deliver quality events for people to enjoy, learn and celebrate the successes of people moving through recovery and focusing on the future.
We will also be transitioning our leadership for the Foundation. In late 2019, Patty announced she would retire from the Foundation at the end of 2020. This led to an extensive and energizing search for the next Executive Director, Connie Cunningham, who starts her new role July 1st. The Search Committee, led by Past President, Mike Keller, screened over 70 applicant resumes, completed phone screenings, and then conducted face-to-face interviews before bringing their recommendation to the full Board of Directors.
Patty has led the MMHF for over nine years after a long and successful career with the Department of Mental Health. She was brought on part-time to continue to lead the start-up of the Foundation, established twelve years ago. She grew the Foundation’s operations and expanded staffing and volunteer support of The Real Voices-Real Choices Consumer Conference, the annual Mental Health Champions’ Banquet and the Director’s Creativity showcase, as well as several other collaborations of the MMHF. We are grateful to her service, dedication, and commitment to further our mission of reducing stigma and discrimination, promoting care and treatment, and fostering inclusion in the community and the workforce.
In the words of one of our founding Board Members, Kathy Carter, “It has been a special privilege to have served under the leadership of Patty. Her incredible kindness, joyful spirit, purposeful life, and integrity guide her heart. She has enriched the lives of so many in need through her vision, leadership, knowledge, compassion, and ability to encourage and inspire!”
Please help me give a warm welcome to Connie Cunningham, our new MMHF Executive Director, who brings 30 years of administration experience in nonprofit and association leadership. Her extensive professional career has focused in health and human services and includes serving as President and CEO of United Way of Central Missouri, Executive Director of St. Louis County Children’s Services Fund, and most recently Executive Director of the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disabilities Services. Connie has worked as a consultant to various nonprofits with board development, organizational structure, and operations, and participates on local, state, and national boards. She is currently a board member for the Missouri Foundation for Health.
“I am committed to the mission of the MMHF and value the tremendous work the Foundation is doing in Missouri. I am pleased and proud to be a part of the effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders, and to promote positive measures for healthy lifestyles,” stated Connie Cunningham.
The Board of Directors are both pleased and excited to recruit someone with such broad experience in Foundation leadership and with connections throughout Missouri. We are confident Connie Cunningham will step into operations and lead the great work of the MMHF. Patty plans to stay on with the Foundation through the end of 2020 as a consultant to MMHF and Connie, allowing for a smooth transition with all MMHF operations and events facilitated across the state.
Mark your calendars because I look forward to seeing you at our first ever virtual Mental Health Champions’ Banquet on October 6th where we will celebrate the successes of our nominees and the three 2020 Mental Health Champions’ award recipients.