LANCASTER — As mental health groups across the nation recognized Mental Illness Awareness Month last month, Mental Health America of Los Angeles raised local awareness about the capabilities of people recovering from mental illness at the 18th annual Golden Bell Awards, held Wednesday in the Van Dam Pavilion at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.

It “celebrates achievements of the people we serve and commends community members who help them be a greater part of our valley community,” MHALA Chief Advancement Officer, Judy Cooperberg said.

The organization’s Antelope Valley Advisory Committee joined MHALA staff to present awards to approximately 200 individuals recognized for achieving significant goals in employment, independent living, education, family well-being and community participation categories.

“I believe these kinds of achievements illustrate the remarkable resolve and resiliency of the people in all our programs — services for adults and youth, homeless assistance, housing, employment, veterans’ housing and financial stability and peer support activities — to reach important goals in their lives,” Cooperberg said

The 2019 Members of the Year are Derrick Young, Discovery Resource Center;  Maria Olguin, Adult Integrated Services; Karen Rivas, Homeless Assistance Program; Jasper Roosevelt, Military Resource Center; Areanna Jenkins; Transition Age Youth; Charlotte Stewart, Homeless Outreach Prevention and Engagement, or HOPE; Magdalena Garcia, Recovery Center; and Lashanda Williams,Supportive Services.

Young also received the 2019 Chimbole Champion Award.

The Chimbole Champion Award goes to an individual who has, through his or her own recovery, demonstrated exceptional leadership and has become a role model for others.

The Golden Bell awards are named for a bell in Alexandria, Virginia, made out of melted-down shackles once used in mental institutions.

As part of the ceremony, MHA honored 60 community businesses, civic groups and individuals who supported its work this year.  This year’s lead sponsors included Lockheed Martin, High Desert Medical Group, Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Antelope Valley Hospital.

Additional sponsors were Kaiser Permanente, Meta Housing Corporation, Lancaster West Rotary, Ironwood Management, Omidi Enterprises, Antelope Valley Mall, Blue Star Mothers, Donnell Printing, John and Hallie Kelly, Mike and Kelly Miller, Palmdale Regional Medical Center, The Parsamyan Family, Valencia Pharmacy and Waste Management.

MHA has served the valley since 1988 with a range of homeless outreach, mental health care, work training, employment placement and housing assistance for adults and young adults with mental health and health issues.  The organization’s Operation Healthy Homecoming focuses on the needs of returning military and homeless veterans and their families.

Founded in 1924, MHA is one of Los Angeles County’s oldest nonprofit mental health organizations and has a purpose to “ensure that all people with mental health conditions assume their full and rightful place in the community.”

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