UMass Dartmouth awarded $35,000 to establish SouthCoast Compeer and aid mentally ill

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was awarded a $35,000 Faith in Action grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to establish Southcoast Compeer

UMass Dartmouth awarded $35,000 to establish SouthCoast Compeer and aid mentally ill

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was awarded a $35,000 Faith in Action grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to establish Southcoast Compeer as a local chapter of Compeer International and the only currently active chapter in Massachusetts. This organization matches trained, caring volunteers to children, adolescents and adults with mental illness in one-to-one friendships. UMass Dartmouth will use the grant to hire a half-time professional coordinator and begin operation. 

A coalition of faith communities and agencies serving persons with mental illness joined UMass Dartmouth to apply for this Faith in Action Grant. Faith communities participating in the coalition include Interchurch Council of Greater New Bedford, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford, First Baptist Church of Fall River, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Fall River, and Catholic Campus Ministry of UMass Dartmouth. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, May Corporation, a non-profit community mental health agency which provides clinical, rehabilitation and support services to persons with mental illness, and the Fall River and New Bedford chapters of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) are members of the coalition and have provided support. 

Sharon Sousa, a professor of nursing who is both a clinical nurse specialist and a psychologist, and Christine Frizzell, director of the UMD Counseling Center and a psychologist, began the UMass Dartmouth Southcoast Compeer. Both had worked for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health prior to coming to UMass Dartmouth and had an interest in Compeer. 

Frizzell and Sousa were motivated by the belief that bringing a local chapter to the SouthCoast fit with UMass Dartmouth’s mission of service to the community, and provide a quality volunteer experience for students, especially nursing, psychology, pre-med, pre-law and sociology students. UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack and Provost Thomas J. Curry sponsored the effort by awarding a $2000 community service grant to fund the application process to Compeer International. In addition to the RWJ Faith in Action grant and the UMD community service grant, Greater New Bedford United Way awarded a community building mini-grant to be used for publicity materials and May Corporation offered an in-kind donation of office space for the program. \ 

Compeer welcomes volunteers from all walks of life. Anyone interested in becoming a Compeer volunteer or an advisory board member is encouraged to contact Christine Frizzell at 508-999-8649 or Sharon Sousa at 508-999-8249. Persons with fundraising expertise would be particularly welcome. Compeer also continues to recruit faith communities to join its coalition and/or serve on its advisory board. The program could also use donations of office supplies and equipment and discount tickets to recreational facilities, sporting events, etc. for use by Compeers.


News and Public Information