Advocate with PR Connect

Advocate with PR Connect

PR Connect logoMore than half of adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime with 6% experiencing a serious mental illness. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., making it more common than homicide. Yet, mental illness remains in the shadows of personal and societal conversations. Knowing this, the Pine Rest Foundation worked with a group of young professionals to form PR Connect with one simple goal: get people talking in order to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Serving as an Advisory Board to the Pine Rest Foundation, PR Connect also puts ideas into action by raising awareness through face-to-face and social media engagement. Get involved in the dialogue. Attend an event. Become a member. Your voice is needed to provide support and encouragement for those in our communities needing behavioral health treatment.

Check back soon for more information on opportunities available for YOU to get involved in PR Connect!

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Meet PR Connect

Hall-Cassie

Cassie Hall, M.S.
PR Connect Board Co-Chair

Click here to connect with Cassie

Born and raised in Battle Creek, I am a lifelong Michigander. Though I love to travel and lived abroad for a short time, I have considered Grand Rapids my home since moving here in 2004. I have degrees in Psychology (BS) and Nonprofit Management (MS), with an emphasis on social media and online communities.

Since childhood, my family has encouraged me to be involved in community service work, and this has developed a strong passion for voluntarism and philanthropy. In addition to volunteering with many nonprofits in the Battle Creek and Grand Rapids areas, I have also served two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and am an Advisory Council member of the West Michigan AmeriCorps Collaborative. In 2015, I was a recipient of the Michigan Nonprofit Alliance’s “Leadership With Purpose” Award.

My family also has a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. This has made me keenly attuned to the greater need for mental health awareness, leading to reduced stigma. I also practice many self-care techniques. I am excited to be a part of PR Connect – to help break down stigma and to encourage good self-care throughout our community.

Bitely, Julie

Julie Bitely, Communications Specialist
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
PR Connect Board Member

Click here to connect with Julie

I’m a storyteller by trade, with professional roles as a journalist and corporate communicator. The stories that inspire me the most always involve the resiliency of the human spirit and the power that hope has to change lives. Quality mental and behavioral health care has the ability to transform people, families and communities.

My interest in PR Connect stems from a desire to see that these essential services are accessible to all without shame or stigma. I’m excited to help PR Connect share their story and get the word out about available mental health resources in West Michigan.

Farrell, Laura

Laura Farrell, Database Development Administrator
Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
PR Connect Board Member 

Click here to connect with Laura

I currently serve as the Database Development Administrator for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. I work with Catholic Central High School, West Catholic High School, and the Foundation for Catholic Secondary Education, along with other affiliated diocesan groups. I was born and raised in West Michigan, and received my Bachelor’s degree in Communication and English from Aquinas College. I have worked in nonprofit development since graduation, and have served in healthcare and education, faith based settings.

I am thrilled to be a part of the PR Connect Board; as mental health awareness is very dear to my heart. Breaking down the stigmas of mental health issues, and advocating for healthy outlets and services has always been a priority for me as a young professional in the community. Pine Rest is such an important facet for our community as a place of health and restoration, and I am honored to help in spreading its message and mission.

Jenifer Garcia

Jenifer Garcia, Executive Director
Allegan General Hospital Foundation
PR Connect Board Member

Click here to connect with Jenifer

I serve as the Executive Director for Allegan General Hospital Foundation. Allegan General Hospital is a not-for-profit, 25 bed critical access hospital located in the heart of Allegan County. I have close to ten years experience in fundraising and development in the nonprofit healthcare sector. My passion for serving others runs deep throughout my many community connections, and what fuels my passion is seeing the raw, honest gratitude in the eyes of someone I have been fortunate enough to help through philanthropy.

I joined PR Connect as another avenue to help others – to help raise awareness about the importance of mental health and to help promote the vital services that Pine Rest is able to offer to our community. As a mother of two young toddlers, the pressures working mothers face with shortened maternity leaves and balancing work and home life is intense. Looking back, I think I ignored the signs of postpartum depression and the effects it can have on bonding with your newborn as well as maintaining work/life relationships. I’m hoping that through my time with PR Connect I am able to help other mothers, working or not, learn about the signs of postpartum depression and how they can speak up and seek the professional guidance and assistance they truly need.

Michelle Harris SQUARE

Michelle Harris, Digital Marketing Coordinator
Family Christian
PR Connect Board Member
Click here to connect with Michelle

My current position at Family Christian, a national faith-based nonprofit retailer, allows me to encourage others in their faith while also spreading hope by promoting Family Christian’s efforts to support orphans and widows. With an education and career in helping nonprofit organizations improve their marketing efforts, I’m passionate about raising awareness of causes that positively impact our community.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services does exactly this, and this is why I joined PR Connect. The services offered by Pine Rest have literally saved many lives. The education offered by Pine Rest has helped me learn more about mental health issues and the opportunities that the PR Connect board provides to young professionals in our community is something that I am proud to take part in. My hope is that by serving on the PR Connect Board I can act as a resource to any friends and colleagues who may be struggling with their mental health.

Kinder, Adam

Adam Kinder, Director of Finance and Reimbursement
Holland Home
PR Connect Board Member

Click here to connect with Adam

As the Director of Finance and Reimbursement at Holland Home, a provider of independent living, home for the aged and skilled nursing facilities and services for the elderly in West Michigan, I am actively involved in developing and refining the strategic direction and enterprise-wide decision making for the organization, including its many partnerships and community ventures. I believe in active engagement in community with others, which means engaging beyond just financially supporting organizations in our community that we have a passion for. Pine Rest has been and continues to be one of those organizations for me and my family. Over the last several years, I’ve been fortunate to get to know some of the work that Pine Rest is doing, but an eager to learn more about Pine Rest and mental health in our community. I’m excited to join PR Connect and the opportunity it brings to engage our community in mental and behavioral health conversations and the work that Pine Rest has been doing for more than one hundred years. I’m passionate about advancing conversations about physical and financial access to care in our community and ensuring that Pine Rest and other mental health organizations continue to be assets for our community for many years to come.

Kristin Long

Kristin Long
PR Connect Board Member

Volunteering and giving back are core values that I hold very close – each of us has a personal responsibility to, in some capacity, serve others and our communities. I became involved with PR Connect because I feel that it’s critically important to promote awareness and advocate for mental and behavioral health issues, while at the same time breaking down the unfair stigmas and judgmental perceptions. I hope to serve as a resource and a positive example for others….sometimes we simply need the confidence and reassurance to know that there are safe and non-judgmental avenues through which to ask for and to receive help.

Amanda Velting

Amanda Velting
PR Connect Board Member

Bio coming soon!