Mental health groups to hold awards celebration and provider fair

TOMS RIVER –  The Mental Health Awareness Committee of Ocean County, in partnership with the National Association on Mental Illness and the Ocean County Library, will present an awards ceremony and Mental Health Provider Fair Wednesday May 7.

Both events will be held at the Toms River library branch, 101 Washington St. The fair will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m.

The awards ceremony, always held the first Wednesday in May, will recognize three groups of honorees.

The first group is a dozen fifth-graders from local schools who took part in an art competition that highlighted the theme, “What a Difference a Friend Makes.” Their artwork will be reproduced in a calendar that will be distributed through the Ocean County Library branches and other venues.

The second to be recognized is a young adult who will read her entry in the poetry and essay writing competition.

The committee will also recognize several community members who have been advocates for mental health awareness. They were nominated by residents of Ocean County during the past year.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders will also present a proclamation at the event.

“When people leave this event they will have a better connection with the advocacy work being done in their community,” said Christina Gaetano, chairperson of the committee. “They will really get to see how people’s lives are affected by their mental health and how each of us can be a positive force in providing support within our community.”

Light refreshments will be served before and after the ceremony.

In addition, NAMI will conduct a Mental Health Provider Fair in the Toms River branch. More than 20 vendors will present information about themselves and the services they provide the mental health community.

“We think combining the two programs will strengthen both events,” said Michael Jones, President of NAMI of Ocean County, Inc. “Those attending the awards ceremony don’t necessarily know about the services that are available. This will bring them together.”

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