July 19, 2018 | By Joseph Scarce ATR-BC, MAAT, MFT 

The Florida Art Therapy Association (FATA) was awarded an AATA Trauma Recovery grant to cover the cost of materials for a painting event hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Collier County and Project H.O.P.E, a support organization serving those impacted by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Florida on September 10, 2017.  Community members who were impacted by Hurricane Irma joined volunteers from NAMI, Project H.O.P.E., and FATA to paint Stars of Hope at the NAMI Conference Center in Naples, FL, on May 21, 2018. The event served as a stress reliever to participants.  Many residents in the Naples area are still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

NAMI of Collier County is dedicated to improving the quality of life for adults, children and families affected by serious mental illnesses. They provide innovative education, support, advocacy programs, and services for over 16,000 individuals in Collier County annually. Their vision is that all persons with mental illnesses receive the help they need to develop resilience and work towards recovery so that they can lead productive and meaningful lives within our community. NAMI also serves as a recovery center for many in need of support as they recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma.

NAMI of Collier County was awarded the opportunity to operate the nationally-recognized outreach model of Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People in Emergencies) for both Collier and Lee counties from January 1 to October 30, 2018. The Project H.O.P.E approach is “neighbors helping neighbors.” They have two teams which include 12 indigenous bi-lingual outreach workers, headed by a team leader and community liaison for each county recruited directly from the communities being served. Project H.O.P.E. is designed not only to provide emotional support and immediate referrals for additional support services, but also to work in concert with other local mental health and medical facilities, community groups and voluntary organizations to fully maximize the available pool of resources needed for long-term recovery and well-being.

The FATA team worked closely with Eileen Streight, NAMI Director of Peer Support Initiatives. FATA members provided art materials, blank wooden stars and stars that had been painted by other trauma survivors at previous events. The FATA team supported and guided the participants in creating stars to send a message to those who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma. Project H.O.P.E. volunteers participated in the star making activities and shared how meaningful it was for them to experience this project with those they have been supporting in the community. The stars created at the NAMI event will be brought to FATA’s next event in the Florida Keys, where participants will again be invited to contribute to the creative project, painting stars to display in public places in communities affected by Hurricane Irma and to share with first responders. These community events also provide opportunities for FATA members to give back to their communities and share how art therapy is beneficial to assist those healing from trauma.

FATA has partnered with Stars of Hope for several events in communities impacted by trauma, most recently in Puerto Rico with families recovering from Hurricane Maria and in Parkland at the Coral Springs Museum with students affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting.

FATA will continue to collaborate with NAMI for future events, culminating in a larger-scale event on Sept 6th, the anniversary week of Hurricane Irma.  This event will be coordinated with the Guidance/Care Center which has facilities in Key West, Marathon, and Key Largo. Many other service organizations will participate in the Keys including Salvation Army, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, FKOC, KAIR, Compass 82 and other local organizations based in the Keys.

Thank you to the AATA Trauma Recovery Fund for making this event possible! Chapters interested in securing funds for projects in their communities, can login to MyAATA to find the “Trauma Recovery – Art Therapy Program Fund Application.” Any questions can be directed to the National Office (info@arttherapy.org).

Release forms have been signed by all participants photographed.