Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri’s Snow Ball Gala 2013

Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri held its 30th Annual Snow Ball, Friday, December 13, 2013, at Four Seasons Hotel, St. Louis. The Snow Ball, Mental Health’s largest fundraiser, featured silent and live auctions, dancing to the swinging sound of The Fabulous Motown Revue, and an elegant dinner. Kim Hudson, FOX 2/News 11, handled the mistress of ceremony duties.

Mark Utterback, President and CEO, with the assistance of some guest introducers, presented the organization’s two highest honors, the Silver Key Award and the Silver Bell Award. The Silver Key Award honors individuals or organizations whose contributions to the mental health field demonstrate a devotion to the eradication of stigma that often prevents people from seeking treatment. MHA acknowledged Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD, and Tim Swinford as the recipients of the 2013 Silver Key Award.

MHA of Eastern Missouri selected Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD for her willingness to build a bridge from academia to the community, for her passionate advocacy for improvements in our community and for taking a leadership role in numerous organizations. She is a licensed psychologist by training and currently serves on the faculty of the Brown School at Washington University. She has demonstrated her leadership in advancing the field of public health, focusing on mental health, with a strong research interest in cultural competence, racial identity, disparities in health and mental health services, and psychosocial implications of race and ethnicity in health communications.

Vetta has quietly helped many organizations make necessary changes in their services to address racial disparities and better fulfill their missions. She is a champion for our society’s most vulnerable citizens and for the promotion of health and mental health through prevention and early intervention strategies.

The other honoree, Tim Swinfard, was chosen for his many contributions to the state-wide public mental health system while serving as the Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers from 2005 to 2012.

During his tenure, Mr. Swinfard worked tirelessly for the improvement of the public mental health system while battling the prospect of severe state budget reductions. His close collaboration and partnerships with the leadership of the Department of Mental Health, Governor’s Office, legislative leaders, advocacy groups, and Coalition members resulted in strengthening the system when conventional wisdom expected the system to deteriorate.

Tim also has a remarkable eye and mind for research. He produced the data-driven research that convinced state leadership to take the risk to adopt the healthcare home initiatives, which significantly changed the Missouri mental health care system. This program is recognized nationally as a best practice model.

The Silver Bell Award is inspired by the Mental Health Bell, the symbol for the mental health movement. The Bell, at the national organization, weighs 300 pounds and was cast from the shackles and chains that once restrained patients in mental hospitals. It offers a dramatic representation of hope, vision and liberty for persons with mental illness. The Silver Bell Award is given to an individual in consideration of outstanding community service, leadership, vision, and values.

The 2013 Silver Bell Award went to Norma Stern for her years of dedicated leadership and generous philanthropic spirit and support of the St. Louis community.

Norma lives each day to the fullest and becomes an inspiration to all she encounters. She truly believes more is gained by giving than receiving and manifests this attitude through her commitment to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Goldfarb School of Nursing, Doorways, Food Outreach, and MHA of Eastern Missouri.

She has served as co-chair of the Snow Ball Committee since 2006. Under her leadership, the event has increased steadily attendance, volunteer involvement, and overall awareness in the community-especially over the previous four years. While she loves to have fun, she also displays her discipline and goal-orientation, taking her responsibility seriously. She truly believes in the work of each organization she supports and exhibits fierce loyalty.

Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri envisions a just, humane, and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity, and the opportunity to achieve their full potential, free from stigma and prejudice. It works toward this vision by embracing its mission statement: “To promote mental health and to improve the care and treatment of persons living with mental illness through advocacy, education, and service”.