Volunteer efforts by a Crosby man in support of mental health options were recognized by the state this spring.
John Pappas, Crosby, was named the 2001 Community Support Program volunteer of the year by the mental health division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
The 70-year-old learned he was named volunteer of the year after getting out of the hospital following life-saving surgery for an aortic aneurysm.
"I was just flabbergasted," Pappas said. "There are just so many people around who have volunteered their time and they were just as deserving as I was."
Pappas said he accepted the award for them. And he was glad that work in mental health was getting attention because he said it is a part of health care not often touted. Pappas, a retired teacher and coach, started a mental health support group in Crosby. Pappas suffered from depression himself.
"It kind of ran in my family," Pappas said of battles with depression. Pappas said the thought of helping "just one person get away from that agony" gave life to the support group.
Rhoda Bohnsack, Deerwood, nominated Pappas for the award. She was one of the original support group members.
"He's done so much here in Crosby for our support group," Bohnsack said. "So many people have gone through the group that have been helped."
Bohnsack said Pappas also was influential in getting the Crisis Line going. Pappas is a former vice president of the Crow Wing County Crisis Line.
"He did an awful lot of work for community education and he always had so many classes going," Bohnsack said about Pappas' earlier contributions to the community. "... It was just wonderful. ... I just can't say enough about him."
The Crosby support group is open to anyone with a mental health issue. Pappas said more than 200 people have gone through the program since it began in 1989.
"It's amazing for a small community like that, but that's the illness for the 1990s," Pappas said, adding statistics show that every day 20 million people are getting help for mental health and 20 million people are out there just keeping quiet about it.
The Crosby support group, funded through the Region 5 plus initiative, offers social activities, educational materials and support people who understand mental health challenges. People have been referred to the support group by case workers, mental health workers and therapists. Information about the support group is also given to callers who seek help from the Crisis Line.
The Crosby support group meets at 6 p.m. Thursdays in the Fireside Room at the Crosby-Ironton Presbyterian Church.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.