Dr. Sharon Sousa, Associate Dean of the college of nursing and Dr. Christine Frizzell, Director of the Counseling Center, began UMass Dartmouth Southcoast Compeer in 2001. At lunch one day they discovered that each of them, years earlier when they worked for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, had hoped to one day bring a chapter of Compeer to the local area. A plan was soon formed to launch a chapter as a University sponsored community service program.
With Chancellor MacCormack's and Provost Curry's support and a small community service grant from the University, Sharon and Chris applied to Compeer International to form an affiliate chapter to serve the SouthCoast area. An advisory board was formed and an application submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Faith in Action Foundation for a grant to fund the chapter start-up. Faith in Action specializes in volunteer care-giving programs and has funded the start up of a number of Compeer chapters.
The Faith in Action grant enabled the chapter to hire a part-time program coordinator, Karen Nourse, in December of 2002 and begin operation. We also received start-up grants from the United Way of Greater New Bedford, the Carlisle Foundation of Framingham, MA, and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. We currently receive financial aid from the New Bedford Community Development Block Grant and in-kind support from UMass Dartmouth. In addition, our Advisory Board assists the program through fundraising events.
Karen managed the program until June 2006, building a solid framework for our student volunteer program which places undergraduates in pairs in staffed programs serving adults and adolescents with mental illness. Karen also began the process of building name recognition for the program and recruiting and placing adult volunteers in one-to-one matches.
In August of 2006, Cynthia Farnham became the program's manager and assumed the title of Director of Volunteers. At that time the student volunteer program was established well enough that Sharon and Christine, with major assistance from Professor Jack Conboy of the psychology department, could run it on their own. This freed up Cynthia to focus on developing the community volunteer program.
The current Director of Volunteers as of January, 2009 is Sister Joseph Marie Levesque, O.P. She, along with Sharon and Christine, are trying to spread the word about Southcoast Compeer and recruit new volunteers.