On May 19th, we hosted our 2nd annual Steps to Pathways Benefit Breakfast at the Stacey C. Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax. The event was a complete sell-out with 185 people in attendance to celebrate the achievements of those we serve, learn about our role in the community, and raise long-term financial support for programs and services.
Board Chairman Dan Gray opened the event, welcoming all guests and several community leaders in attendance, including State Delegate David Bulova, Mayor of Fairfax Scott Silverthorne; Fairfax City Council members David Meyer, Janice Miller, Eleanor Schmidt, and Jon Stehle; and Fairfax County School Board members Megan McLaughlin and Sandy Evans. Also recognized were Pathways; pro bono construction partners Signature Renovations, and Christopher Companies.
Pathways President and CEO, Dr. Sylisa Lambert-Woodard, spoke of the history of mental health care in our country, and contrasted those early ‘treatment’ philosophies with the ever-expanding knowledge, programs and services offered today. She stressed that Pathway Homes’ expansion over the years, both in terms of geography and service offerings, has come about for one purpose: to meet the needs of adults with severe mental illnesses in our community. Speaking to the efficiency of our service model, Sylisa compared the cost of hospitalization in a state institution at $600 per day to the cost of Pathways supportive services in the community at $32.00 per day.
The real stars of the morning were the individuals served by Pathway Homes who mingled with guests during the social time before the program started. Many spoke about their experience with mental illness and homelessness, and their experience since coming to Pathway Homes. This gave those in attendance the chance to meet and hear from real people, with real stories, about real challenges they faced right here in our community. Attendees also had the chance to learn what we have known and embraced all along, that recovery is possible. Most importantly, it showed those who support us financially exactly what happens as a result of their contributions.
Guests enjoy socializing prior to the program:
An individual served by Pathway Homes was seated at each of the tables in the room to greet the guests and act as a co-host for that table. More importantly, they were there to take terms and concepts like “mental illness” and “recovery” out of the abstract and connect them to real people that the guests could meet and interact with firsthand. Several of these individuals were called upon to stand and share with the crowd a one-word or brief description of “What Recovery Means to Me.” “Strength”, “order, not chaos”, “humanity”, and “hope” were just a few of the responses shared. In addition, each table featured a centerpiece with a consumer-identified recovery word or phrase displayed, encouraging those at the table to engage in a conversation around the meaning of recovery.
Two individuals served were featured speakers during the program. Aida Pitot spoke about her life since coming to Pathways. She described her recovery from mental illness; the friendships formed with her roommates in their shared home, her work to support others who battle with mental illness and her greatest recent achievement- “becoming an American citizen.” Following Aida, Sue Zywokarte spoke of the impact Pathways has had on her life. Sue shared the continued confidence she has gained during her time with Pathways; confidence that helped her to obtain her associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree, and to enter graduate school where she will finish her master’s degree this fall.
Sue also spoke on behalf of the agency to recognize supporters who belong to the Pathways Giving Society, a special group of donors who have pledged to make significant annual contributions over the next 5 years. Donors pledging $10,000 per year for 5 years are inducted into the society at the Trailblazer level. Donors pledging $5,000 per year for the next 5 years are inducted at the Explorer level, and donors of $1,000 annually for 5 years earn the Pioneer designation. These multiyear contributions help Pathways make long-term plans to provide sustainable housing and services to more individuals in need.
As a result of the amazing stories shared that morning, and in recognition of the role that Pathway Homes has played in making those recovery stories possible, we raised more than $120,000 in immediate gifts and pledged contributions. Thanks to the generous support of Krafft Services and the Northern Virginia Associations of Realtors, who underwrote the cost of the event, 100% of those funds raised will go to Pathways programs and services.