Advocate with PR Connect

PR Connect logoMore than half of adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime with 6% experiencing a serious mental illness. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., making it more common than homicide. Yet, mental illness remains in the shadows of personal and societal conversations. Knowing this, the Pine Rest Foundation worked with a group of young professionals to form PR Connect with one simple goal: get people talking in order to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Serving as an Advisory Board to the Pine Rest Foundation, PR Connect also puts ideas into action by raising awareness through face-to-face and social media engagement. Get involved in the dialogue. Attend an event. Become a member. Your voice is needed to provide support and encouragement for those in our communities needing behavioral health treatment.

Check back soon for more information on opportunities available for YOU to get involved in PR Connect!

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Meet PR Connect


Cassie Hall, M.S.
Grand Rapids Public Library
PR Connect Board Co-Chair

Click here to connect with Cassie

Born and raised in Battle Creek, I am a lifelong Michigander. Though I love to travel and lived abroad for a short time, I have considered Grand Rapids my home since moving here in 2004. I have degrees in Psychology (BS) and Nonprofit Management (MS), with an emphasis on social media and online communities.

Since childhood, my family has encouraged me to be involved in community service work, and this has developed a strong passion for voluntarism and philanthropy. In addition to volunteering with many nonprofits in the Battle Creek and Grand Rapids areas, I have also served two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and am an Advisory Council member of the West Michigan AmeriCorps Collaborative. In 2015, I was a recipient of the Michigan Nonprofit Alliance’s “Leadership With Purpose” Award. I work at Grand Rapids Public Library, where I am able to combine a lifelong passion for reading and people to make a positive impact on the community around me.

My family also has a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. This has made me keenly attuned to the greater need for mental health awareness, leading to reduced stigma. I also practice many self-care techniques. I am excited to be a part of PR Connect – to help break down stigma and to encourage good self-care throughout our community.

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Kayla McKnight, Executive Assistant
Mel Trotter Ministries
PR Connect Board Co-Chair

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I currently work with Mel Trotter Ministries as the Executive Assistant to the CEO, Vice President of Development, and Board of Directors. I am originally from Saint Petersburg, Florida and moved to Michigan with my husband four years ago. My undergraduate studies are in Ministry with a minor in Psychology. I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in the areas of Social Work and Psychology in the near future.

I am excited to serve on the Board of PR Connect because I am passionate about Pine Rest’s Mission to bring the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to those in need of behavioral health services in our community. My personal story is one that has benefited from behavioral health services. My hope is to come alongside of Pine Rest in support to help break the stigma of mental illness and to share God’s grace that offers hope and help to those in need.

Jenifer Garcia

Jenifer Garcia, Executive Director
Allegan General Hospital Foundation
PR Connect Board Co-Chair

Click here to connect with Jenifer

I serve as the Executive Director for Allegan General Hospital Foundation. Allegan General Hospital is a not-for-profit, 25 bed critical access hospital located in the heart of Allegan County. I have close to ten years experience in fundraising and development in the nonprofit healthcare sector. My passion for serving others runs deep throughout my many community connections, and what fuels my passion is seeing the raw, honest gratitude in the eyes of someone I have been fortunate enough to help through philanthropy.

I joined PR Connect as another avenue to help others – to help raise awareness about the importance of mental health and to help promote the vital services that Pine Rest is able to offer to our community. As a mother of two young toddlers, the pressures working mothers face with shortened maternity leaves and balancing work and home life is intense. Looking back, I think I ignored the signs of postpartum depression and the effects it can have on bonding with your newborn as well as maintaining work/life relationships. I’m hoping that through my time with PR Connect I am able to help other mothers, working or not, learn about the signs of postpartum depression and how they can speak up and seek the professional guidance and assistance they truly need.

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Michelle Harris, Digital Marketing Coordinator
Family Christian
PR Connect Board Member
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With an education and career in helping nonprofit organizations improve their marketing efforts, I’m passionate about raising awareness of causes that positively impact our community. Pine Rest does exactly this, and this is why I joined PR Connect. The services offered by Pine Rest have literally saved many lives. The education offered by Pine Rest has helped me learn more about mental health issues. The opportunities that the PR Connect board provides young professionals in our community is something I am proud to take part in. My hope is that by serving on the PR Connect board I can act as a resource to any friends and colleagues who may be struggling with their mental health.

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Valarie James, MSW, MPH
Medical Social Worker for Spectrum Health Big Rapids
PR Connect Board Member
Click here to connect with Valarie

I am a recent graduate from Michigan State University with a dual Masters in Social Work and Public Health. I have a passion for working with individuals from underrepresented populations to become connected to resources to improve their overall wellbeing. I believe I can achieve this through community health outreach, advocacy and health promotion. I joined PR Connect because I want to increase awareness of mental health care and to promote the importance of utilizing community resources such as Pine Rest to become mentally healthy. I believe mental health illnesses impacts everyone regardless of background so therefore we should all become educated on this issue as a way to improve our community

Kinder, Adam

Adam Kinder, Director of Finance and Reimbursement
Holland Home
PR Connect Board Member

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As the Director of Finance and Reimbursement at Holland Home, a provider of independent living, home for the aged and skilled nursing facilities and services for the elderly in West Michigan, I am actively involved in developing and refining the strategic direction and enterprise-wide decision making for the organization, including its many partnerships and community ventures. I believe in active engagement in community with others, which means engaging beyond just financially supporting organizations in our community that we have a passion for. Pine Rest has been and continues to be one of those organizations for me and my family. Over the last several years, I’ve been fortunate to get to know some of the work that Pine Rest is doing, but an eager to learn more about Pine Rest and mental health in our community. I’m excited to join PR Connect and the opportunity it brings to engage our community in mental and behavioral health conversations and the work that Pine Rest has been doing for more than one hundred years. I’m passionate about advancing conversations about physical and financial access to care in our community and ensuring that Pine Rest and other mental health organizations continue to be assets for our community for many years to come.

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Kristin Long, Philanthropy Officer
Pine Rest Foundation
PR Connect Board Member 

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As Philanthropy Officer at the Pine Rest Foundation, my service is to engage donors and friends of the Pine Rest Foundation in supporting and advancing the mission and vision of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Through their time, talent, and treasure, I have the honor of working with these amazing individuals and organizations to help them achieve their philanthropic goals. Volunteering and giving back are core values that I hold very close – each of us has a personal responsibility to, in some capacity, serve others and our communities. I became involved with PR Connect because I feel that it’s critically important to promote awareness and advocate for mental and behavioral health issues, while at the same time breaking down the unfair stigmas and judgmental perceptions. I hope to serve as a resource and a positive example for others….sometimes we simply need the confidence and reassurance to know that there are safe and non-judgmental avenues through which to ask for and to receive help. If you are interested in learning more about PR Connect, please contact me – I would love to connect with you!

Moore, Amanda

Amanda Mallory Moore, Civic Engagement Organizer
City of Grand Rapids – City Clerk’s Office
PR Connect Board Member
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My work in local government engages our community and propagates civic involvement; I consider myself a public servant and strive to empower individuals to have a say in how their community is shaped. As members of our community, it is our duty to respectfully work together, promoting change and improvement in our society.

Personally and professionally, I’ve witnessed the challenges people with mental illness face. Many barriers exist between an individual and treatment, the most pervasive of which are lacking knowledge of resources and the destructive reputation of mental illness.

PR Connect educates about and advocates for behavioral health awareness. As a group, we seek to spread knowledge of the services provided by Pine Rest and the resources available to those in need. Please consider donating time or resources to help us with this mission. We have many opportunities to help promote services offered by Pine Rest or to help grow the Patient Assistance Fund which assists individuals and families with financial hardships.

Julie Ann Mulder

Julie Ann Mulder, MS, BA, BSN, RN-BC
Neuromodulation Clinic
PR Connect Board Member; Chair of the Internal Awareness & Education Committee
Click here to connect with Julie Ann

“Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something”. Henry David Thoreau

My professional career in mental health spans 20+ years, and I have been blessed to serve at Pine Rest since 1998. My roles have at Pine Rest have included Charge Nurse, Manager of the Staff Development Department, and now as the Coordinator for TMS in the Neuromodulation Clinic. Educating future nurses about behavioral health is a passion I am also able to pursue through teaching psychiatric nursing part-time for several West Michigan nursing schools. PR Connect allows me to go one step further by expanding outreach to other healthcare professionals, individuals experiencing mental illness, their families, their friends, and the community. Education and awareness are crucial components in eliminating the pervasive stigma and stereotypes that people with mental illness are often still forced to endure. Ideally this awareness will be the impetus needed to begin to make changes in health policy, access to services, insurance coverage, and funding for research. Being invited to serve with PR Connect is truly an honor. I am looking forward to doing my part in raising awareness about issues surrounding mental health and being an agent for change.

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Abigayle Sladick, Director of Community Relations
Mel Trotter Ministries
PR Connect Board Member

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I believe nearly every human can define their life’s purpose with a single word. Mine is “service.” I focus my time, talent and financial support in three main areas: Christian faith-based, education and health. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is an organization that fulfills all of these areas, and therefore it has been a calling to dedicate myself to spreading the good news about the services and programs offered at Pine Rest. I am one of the founding members of PR Connect and currently a Co-Chair, working alongside a group of inspiring, creative and motivating young professionals. Each of us has our own story about how mental/behavioral health has impacted us personally. We believe the more we share our stories and the stories of the survivors in our community, the sooner we begin to heal. If you’re interested in getting involved with PR Connect, please contact me. I’d love to meet with you!