FAIRFIELD — Twenty-five volunteers put items in colorful, holiday bags Saturday to be distributed by the National Alliance on Mental Health Solano County to people living with mental illness.
Gerry Williams of Vallejo took part in the event at the Church of God on Empire Street in Fairfield. She has two children with schizoaffective disorder.
“They’ve actually been in the hospital at Christmas-time when they’ve received the bags and it meant so much to them,” Williams said. “This year, they’re not in the hospital. They are helping out.”
Her daughter Brianne Williams remembers receiving a bag about three years ago.
“It made my whole Christmas,” she said. “It was so kind and generous.”
Volunteers wearing Santa hats put items such as shampoo, socks, toothbrushes, candy and soap into 300 bags. Some of the bags will get distributed by the nonprofit group Caminar during its Dec. 23 party at its Wellness and Recovery Center in Vallejo.
Many of the clients get an $18-a-week stipend from their conservator or payee, said Ken Langill, program coordinator at the center.
“It’s really important we give them the hygiene products — soap, deodorant, shampoo — that they won’t otherwise be able to afford,” Langill said.
Maya Escareno of Suisun City helped prepare the bags along with her fiance and two sons. She is an AmeriCorps volunteer in Napa and found out about the NAMI event on the Volunteer Center for Solano County website.
“I wanted something to do with the family . . . We wanted to do something in the community,” she said.
NAMI has been preparing and giving out the Christmas bags for 25 years, said Lorraine Yount, who coordinated the event.
“We started out small and it’s developed into this,” Yount said. “We started I think probably with 50 (bags), 25 years ago.”
The project costs about $2,500 to $3,000. Money comes from the annual NAMIWalk, she said.
NAMIWalk raises money for mental health programs in several Bay Area counties, including Solano County. The next walk is scheduled for May 31, 2014, at Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
NAMI is looking for business and individual sponsors to help pay for the event and for teams that will participate in the walk. Please contact Yolanda Garcia-Martinez at email@example.com or 567-9130 for more information.
The national nonprofit group describes its mission as building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.