Honoree 2015 – Karen Niles

Congrats to Karen Niles for being honored as an outstanding community volunteer!

Name:  Karen Niles

Nominating Organization:  NAMI OC

Honoree Category:  Human & Community

Why Nominated:  Karen Niles has been a dedicated volunteer with NAMI-OC since 2006, generously giving her time, wisdom, and kindness to others whenever assistance is needed and without hesitation. As a NAMI Family-to-Family teacher, Karen makes herself available year in and year out to teach 12-week mental health education courses to families experiencing turmoil and crisis. With warm hugs and a gentle, reassuring voice Karen guides these family members from a place or grief, fear and anguish to a place of emotional healing and advocacy. Importantly, once Karen’s service conducting these 12-class courses finishes, Karen’s role supporting her students does not end. Karen makes a special effort to reach out to her program graduates at times when she knows that they are going through difficulties and twice-annually welcomes all of her alumni into her home for a class reunion celebration. By making this exceptional effort to stay connected with families, Karen has created an emotionally safe environment where many of her students’ ill family members feel comfortable interacting as part of a mental health community for the first since their illnesses began.

In addition to teaching the NAMI Family-to-Family course multiple times per year, Karen also serves as a NAMI Family-to-Family State Trainer. Using the expertise she has cultivated as a teacher, she readies others to serve effectively in a similar capacity. In large part thanks to Karen’s willingness to give up multiple 3-day weekends per year to conduct these trainings, NAMI-OC has been able to double its Family-to-Family teacher pool over an approximately 2 year period. To promote camaraderie and support among this group, Karen has worked with the NAMI-OC staff to organize and host a Thank You Luncheon for these teachers at her home, too.

Karen is also a dedicated Provider Education Course Teacher. She collaborates with 4 other teachers and makes meaningful, impactful contributions to educating mental health professionals about the experiences of family members who have a loved one with a mental illness.

Any and all of these individuals who cross paths with Karen directly and indirectly are also welcomed back into action, advocacy, and adventure when Karen co-captains the NAMIGOS team at NAMI-OC’s annual 5K walk and fundraiser, NAMIWalks. Last year, Karen’s team raised $10,494 to keep NAMI-OC’s free mental health services moving forward in the community.

Karen has been a beacon of great hope, encouragement, and education for literally hundreds of individuals and families living with the challenges brought on by serious mental illness and through her generosity of training talents, she has enabled hundreds if not thousands of additional lives to be positively impacted by the teachers who have followed in her footsteps. Karen’s accomplishments are as great as she is humble, and for this reason she is a most deserving candidate for the Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Please write a note of congratulations below!


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