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Shining a Light on Mental Health Awareness

Civic Warriors Podcast Episode 15: People Are There (P.A.T.)

"The world needs something like this."

Serena Grecco, founder of a mental health awareness organization called People Are There (P.A.T.) talks with us as she discusses the inspiration behind creating her nonprofit and what steps were taken and are being taken to fulfill a deep seeded passion for giving back. Since founding this nonprofit, Serena has made it her mission to educate, create resourced for and destigmatize mental health problems in the modern world. Listen in as you hear how P.A.T. is nurturing and deepening the conversation of mental health and inspiring hope in others in her friend Pat’s name.


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Civic Warriors:
Innovative, dynamic, gritty, determined, warrior.

Hosts:
This podcast is about the innovators, the leaders on the front lines of adversity, the all around good people doing good deeds. They are the civic warriors of the world. Withum’s guests are the leaders in the nonprofit industry affecting change. They try, they fail, they overcome. Through their stories we can join forces to become civic warriors.

Brad:
Hey warriors with his guests and Civic Warriors today, Serena Grecco from People Are There, or PAT. PAT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and to combating the stigma associated with it. They aim not only to educate people young and old about the need to combat the mental health crisis, but also to be a force for change in our communities. We also highlight the challenges associated with starting a nonprofit and the importance of being a positive influence on those around you. Let’s welcome Serena to the show. Thanks for joining us. I mean, obviously, uh, you know, Matt, Matt kind of shared, uh, some of the things that you’re doing and, and, uh, we really appreciate, uh, having the opportunity to just chat with you and, and, uh, kind of share your message, kind of bring out some, you know, raise awareness. I think there’s some very important issues and things that are going on, especially right now. And, uh, yeah, we want to, uh, make this about, about, uh, sharing the message and really talking about, you know, any, any issues or concepts you want to talk about to, uh, uh, bring to light what you’ve been doing. So, thanks. Thanks for being a part of this.

Serena:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited.

Brad:
Yeah. So I guess why don’t we just jump right in, I mean, why don’t you talk a little bit about, uh, you know, who you are and what you do?

Serena :
Okay. So my name’s, my name is Serena Grecco. I’m 22 years old. I started a nonprofit called People Are There, and the reason for that name. Um, so it’s PAT and then People Are There. And it’s an honor of my friend, Pat, who unfortunately took his own life, uh, in June, 2016. So it’s mental health awareness organization, and we’re focused on a bunch of things. Um, but I think the three main things that I like to say about this organization is one, we focus on education itself and educating, um, all ages and bringing in a better education system, into schools about mental health itself, um, to working with other organizations and getting their names out there. Because I don’t think people either utilize them as much or even know that they’re out there. So just having more resources out there for people of all ages to access and three overall, just prioritizing and shining light on health itself, especially with everything going on today, it plays a huge factor. It doesn’t matter what your age is, who you are. Everyone has mental health. So that’s why I love this organization because I get to work with everyone and anyone. So that’s kind of what we’re doing right now.

Matt:
Oh, I was just going to say no, that’s awesome. Um, I know we were talking about that a few days ago and everything. Um, when we’re on the phone, um, I guess tell us a little bit about how it all got started. Like how, um, like the beginning days when you first started, cause we’re, we’re 22 years old, 23 years old. And like normally when you think of a, not-for-profit startup, you think of like really established people. And so how did, how did that all start up?

Serena:
So it’s actually kind of crazy because I never thought I was going to do anything like this in general. So obviously when Pat passed, I always knew I had to do something and I never, as I said, never thought it was going to be anything like this. So, um, it was last January. I was driving one night. It was, I was listening to this song. Um, if you don’t know it’s called, This is Me and it’s in the movie, The Greatest Showman, which I’ve never even seen, but I was at the mall before. And, um, the song came on and I was like, Oh, I like this song. So I actually just kept putting it on repeat. And it’s like a song about being yourself. And it really shines light, I think, on mental health itself too. And all of a sudden, just the name came to my mind and I never had a reaction like that. I was like, oh my gosh. So I immediately drove right to my dad’s house. And I was like, I have this idea. And he was like, just start writing. And actually a few days before, um, obviously I thought the idea it was Christmas and my aunt got me a journal and she was like, I don’t know, for some reason, like something was telling me, you have to get it, like you need a journal. So now that’s the journal I use to write all my ideas and everything, which is great. And then I kept the idea to myself for a while, because one, I was finishing up college and two, I knew I wanted it to be a mental health awareness organization, but I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do with it. So, uh, on past three year, we always get together on, you know, the date that he passed me and my friend group. I announced it to my friends because I was like, obviously I want, you know, them to be involved. They were a huge part of his life too. Um, so I talked with a few of them and a lot were saying, okay, let’s focus on, you know, the younger generation and everything, which is what we’re all we’re doing, but I knew I could do more with it. So I was like, why don’t we focus on everyone? Let’s just focus on everyone. As I said before, everyone has mental health. So now we became an official nonprofit, November, 2019. So it hasn’t even been a year yet, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I’m just grateful that I get to do it in the honor of my friend. Like that’s all, that’s what it’s all about for me too.

Brad:
Yeah. And that’s incredible. I mean, you know, it’s incredible that you’re doing this, you know, right out of college at a young age, it’s incredible that you have this passion for it. And, and, you know, you can tell just in the way you’re talking about it. And what I love about talking with not-for-profit leaders is, is that usually the people that find that found the organizations are usually like super – they want to solve it, they want to solve the world’s problems and, and, you know, mature organizations that have been around for a long time. You don’t always get that same vibe. And that’s why I love when people start, you know, start missions and start projects. It’s, you know, you have this, like this, this exuberance about it. That’s, that’s fantastic. I love hearing it. So I guess from a, from a mental health, you know, obviously mental health is a, is a, is a big, uh, you know, big concern, um, right now. Um, and I think it’s, I mean, to me, um, it’s one of the, one of the least talked about biggest problems that exist, um, on, on, on so many it’s the most, it’s probably, and it’s such a complex topic because, you know, mental health is driven by so many things it’s driven by genetics. It’s chance driven by experience. Uh, it’s driven by positive and negative things that happened to you in your life. Um, and so, you know, from that perspective, I think it, you know, it it’s incredible. So, I mean, from your perspective, you know, w where do you, where do you feel, um, you know, where do you feel, uh, PAT is, you know, your organization is kind of filling a need. Like where do you feel that you’re focusing your, your energy from an awareness perspective?

Serena:
You know, I think what, well, with this organization, what we’re trying to do is give back too, and I think without, we’re trying to show people that one, it’s okay to not be okay in a way, but two that they have a purpose and we’re giving back in any sort of way. And I think we also are trying to just make it known with the posts we have right now. We can only utilize social media because of everything going on. So we’re all people we just had a 12 days of quarantine activity routine each day was something different. And we were talking and each day it was like, example. It could have been a book day. And it was people like how reading helps your mental health or we had someone come on live and do yoga and how that helps your mental health. So it’s just little things like that. And just making it know that it’s, you need to prioritize your mental health, especially as I say, with the world we’re living in today, it’s, it’s crazy. And I just am open to anything. And I have a lot of ideas coming in from different people too. So getting people involved is a huge thing as well, too.

Matt:
I was going to say, I thought the, a really unique part about the 12 days of quarantine was there were so many different moving parts to it. Like you had a trivia night with it, you had a workout night with Nick, you had, um, a yoga night, you had a music day. And I thought that was really cool because it really had people focused in. And kind of, even if you were feeling down because of the quarantine or other things like that, you were always able to be a little distracted. Like you had that one day to focus on a different skill and everything. How did you come up with that idea?

Serena:
So I just kind of saw, you know, there were other mental health awareness organizations doing like day one focused on yourself day two, which was great, but I want to incorporate activities within it as well. So, um, me and I have a team, we been doing a lot of Zoom calls and at first we were only going to do a week. And then I was like, we use the number 12, because that was Pat’s number. And we just always referenced 12. So it was like, we’re still in a pandemic. We’re still quarantined. Like an extra five days will not hurt. And also may is mental health awareness month. And we’re doing a lot behind social media. So obviously I want, you know, to do, I want to do something for others as well, too. So I just thought that was something unique and different. And we came up with the different days and how they all pertain to mental health, but also making it enjoyable and knowledgeable for everyone that was participating.

Brad:
And so from a social media perspective, you know, what platforms do you use right now? Or where do you find the most I guess, traction with social media?

Serena:
Yeah. So we have Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. My website’s actually in the works right now, but, um, Instagram is definitely the most popular platform we have. Um, we have people from it’s crazy different, not even just, we have different States, like people following we’ve had different organizations follow us. So Instagram is definitely up there, but Twitter is doing pretty well too. So, um, definitely both, but Instagram is definitely number one.

Matt:
You have to get on TikTok soon.

Brad:
We’re not TikTok Matt alright I told you. I told you no TikTok-ing.

Matt:
We have to make an office TikTok when we get back.

Brad:
There ain’t no TikTok-ing going on, alright. I had people TikTok-ing on my lawn and I had to get them off my lawn. Alright, anyway, from, from, uh, um, I guess, how did you, how did, what’s your strategy with social media? Like, how did you, uh, you know, you said you have, you have a pretty good following. You’re getting people like, like, you know, how did you go about that? How did you, how did you engage? I know, you know, getting from like zero to a hundred followers is probably harder than getting from like a million to 2 million. And I don’t know where you’re at, but I’m in the, I’m in the 0 to 50 range. So, you know, I can’t get off the ground. So, you know, what advice you have or how did you, how did you go about your strategy with, uh, you know, you know, increasing that, that, uh, awareness or increasing that following base?

Serena:
Um, so I think for me personally, I have a very strong knit friend group. So first it was them all, obviously both following the social media, sorry. And then they tell their friends and they tell their people, but then now we also have shirts and the shirts is what really got people to follow because people would be posting it on their Instagram stories and they tag us and then I would repost it or something, and it just keeps building and building. So definitely, I mean, just a simple story, you know, then you have people just coming in, I’m at, I think we’re at like almost 500 followers right now, which is great because I said, we just started this in November. Um, I’ve had people DM the account, just like even applauding the whole organization itself. So it makes me feel really good. And I just, it’s like, it’s crazy how social media, like, that’s how it all started, you know, like that, it’s just crazy how things can blow up like that. So I’m very surprised honestly, but I’m also very grateful.

Brad:
Yeah. It is crazy how it, how it catches on like wildfire like that, especially, um, you know, especially if you didn’t expect it. Um, but, but it’s social media has, has a, has a big, you know, I’ll call it positive and negative to it. Um, I think the positive with, with cases of, of this, or are outweigh, you know, any, any negative, but, um, you know, it, it’s, it’s, it’s important to, to display your message and in many mediums and really get your message out, especially if, if you are raising awareness to an issue or you are trying to connect, you know, I think, I think with mental health, a lot of times people are afraid to like reach out, but if you connect with them, they may be more willing to reach out. You know, I know just based on my own history, it, you know, sometimes you need a little push or sometimes you need a little someone to actually physically, uh, connect with you. And I think if you’re doing, uh, you know, activities you’re, you’re engaging and, you know, people are following that. It has, uh, an exponential impact that you can’t quantify other than, you know, you probably save someone’s life. You know.

Serena:
That’s honestly like the goal too. And just, I said, prioritizing and just being there for people too, and, you know, getting other organizations names out there too, that are amazing resources. So that’s honestly just the whole goal itself.

Brad:
So how do you feel, you know, obviously you started your organization a few months ago, it’s been something you’ve been passionate about for a long time. How do you feel, I guess what we’re going through right now with, with social distancing and not, you know, kind of, kind of discontinuing activities, you were a part of, how do you, how do you feel that, you know, is impacting mental health and also how do you, how are you addressing that or how are you kind of helping, uh, in that, in that scenario? So definitely how, I mean, it’s, even for myself, it’s taken a toll on people’s mental health, because you’re not in your everyday routine anymore. You know, obviously life is so different. People are losing jobs, people, you know, or they’re just really, it’s not what they’re used to. So how I feel is, you know, as I said, just still connecting with people on social media, online, letting them know we sent out a whole message. Like we’re there for them, if they need anything it’s like for themselves. Um, and just as I’m continuing to work with my team, with what we’re going to be, having to focus on a lot, because I especially read a lot of articles to how this is going to play a huge effect in the upcoming months. So we’re just coming up with different strategies and different ideas and goals that we can work on based on, you know, coronavirus and just everything going on in the world right now. Um, it’s a crazy time. It’s truly a crazy time, especially now, you know, obviously it started this in November and obviously no one was expecting this. I wasn’t expecting this. So now this is something I really have to do, like really get the ball rolling on and just, you know, being there for people and just, just focusing on what is to come in the future.

Brad:
Yeah. And that now is this like, is this a 24, seven thing for you? Or is this, you know, like all in all the time or do you have a day job too?

Serena:
Um, I had a, the job got laid off, but I was also focusing on this during that, but, um, I’m, I’ve put a lot of work into it and I think now I have so much time that I’m kind of happy with every, not like with everything, but like that I get to like really sit down and focus on this whole organization itself. And I’ve been connecting with so many other people. Like for me personally, I’m also a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the New Jersey chapter, and I’m working on becoming I’m in training to become one of their speakers and one of their community ambassadors. And I’m also on one of their boards for the walks that we do. So it’s also about getting involved and making connections. That’s the most important thing and just growth in general. Hmm. Oh, one

Brad:
That’s the one thing about, about, about doing these non-life right. It is. It’s so hard not to like cue over somebody. I do it all, you know? And so, so go ahead, Matt.

Matt:
We need a thing on teams where you could like raise your hand or something.

Brad:
No, because I would never look at it. It’s fine. Jump in. Just go ahead. That’s good.

Matt:
Um, one thing you mentioned earlier is about the, uh, education portion of it. So can you tell us a little bit about that? Cause I remember when we were in high school together, um, I can’t even recall if they ever mentioned, um, mental health in our health class or anything, which is wild that they never brought it up. I mean, they would show us videos of people doing like crystal meth and all these drugs, but they would never show us anything about mental health. So, um, I guess how are you trying to get into, I guess, different school systems and change the way that they address it?

Serena:
Yeah. Um, so before I became an official nonprofit, I sat down with one of our elementary school principals who was actually my, and that’s elementary school principals. We have two elementary school in town and I told him the whole idea and he gave me a lot of, you know, ideas and opinions and everything like that. Then, um, November came, became the nonprofit and then we started reaching out to, we are in contact right now with the middle school in our town. And I’ve also still been in contact with the elementary school principals. So we were actually supposed to go sit in on a health class, but with everything going on, we can’t right now, but we’re still in contact, but we are working on a presentation, me and my team to present to the board of education at some point. Um, and it’s kinda hard right now because why we wanted to sit in on the health classes to see exactly what they are being taught. Um, one of the people on my team like his sister is in eighth grade and she’s the one that actually told us that, you know, they are starting to learn about mental health and everything because of the tragedies that have happened in our town. And so we wanted to base it off that a little bit. So it’s kind of hard, but we’ve also done a lot of research and everything too, of what we can incorporate. So we’re working on that whole aspect right now, as I said, a little difficult, but um, just, you know, for us in my high school, you had health for a marking period. I feel like maybe it should be a full year type of class just because especially I keep repeating myself, but the world we’re living in today, it’s going to affect you. It doesn’t matter what your age is. It’s going to make an effect on each and every single person in this world.

Brad:
There’s no, yeah. There’s no question about that. Especially, especially, you know, firsthand experience having, when you have two young and have like two working parents and everything, it definitely creates a, it creates an extreme challenge to, you know, there’s, I describe it as there’s this level of anxiety that you can’t, you can’t quantify. Um, it’s not something that you know about, but all of a sudden, you know, your bones rattle a little bit, you know, everything bothers you and it’s like, okay, something something’s not right.

Serena:
Yeah.

Brad:
So from a, um, from a partnering perspective, you mentioned earlier that, that you, you partner with other organizations, um, you know, I think one of the most difficult things I found, um, just, just going through some things in life is actually finding help and like actually accessing it. So as an example, um, let’s assume that, that, you know, I know, I know myself, I had to find a doctor with a specific specialty or a psychologist with a specific specialty. And not only was it hard to find that person, but I would call and leave messages and they would, they would just, it would just be this perpetual inbox of you can never get through to somebody. And then when you finally get through to someone, they’re like, yeah, by the way, we don’t take your insurance or insurance, doesn’t cover it, whatever it may be. And then, then you get to the next stage, which is like, okay, like now what, and, and it’s this perpetual cycle. And I was fortunate in my life that I did get in contact with someone in any view. The, I always view these as like acts of God of like how it actually comes about, because it’s like, it’s either in a moment of desperation or it’s like randomly stuff someone will say, did you talk to this person? They’re my friend. And I know them and you call them like, Oh yeah, I’ll take you. And it’s, but barring that aside, you know, do you see that as an issue and, you know, are you working with that or, or doing anything about that or is there anything you feel that, that, you know, the world should be doing about that to, you know, access to mental health or, or, you know, partnering, you know, you mentioned partnering with other organizations, you know, how does that resonate?

Serena:
Um, I do see that as an issue. Definitely. I mean, I know personally for me, I know for me and other people I’ve talked to you about even the therapist or psychologist in their colleges, you know, it would take them like three months to just go talk to someone. And I think especially college years, it’s a very difficult time. So that’s something we brought up and just something we want to focus on. I think personally for me, I think a lot of things are going to change with everything going on in the mental health care world. So I hope things get better. I knew insurance just making time and setting different appointments for people because it’s kind of crazy, you know, you’re going through something and then you can’t talk to someone for what, three months. That’s crazy like it’s so, um, that’s why also there’s all these organizations out there that are willing to help you or get you the assistance that you actually do need. I know, as I said, the American foundation for suicide prevention is amazing and they have all these different resources and everything too. And I’ve done so many, like other research on different organizations for different specific things. So as I said, I don’t think people know that they’re actually out there. So that’s something I want to like bring up too, that all of these different organizations are there to help you or are there to help you get the assistance that you need. So that is something that, um, I’m definitely working on right now.

Matt:
I agree with you on that one point you made with, uh, like college campuses and it being so difficult to get access to healthcare. Cause I remember at Stockton um, like we would take like brothers down there. I went down one time and you go down, you try to make an appointment and you have to wait another two, three months. And that’s the whole semester right there pretty much. Um, I feel like that’s a big issue with the mental health world right now where universities are either at sort of such a shortage for psychologists or they just don’t have the resources for, to be able to handle the, uh, the amount of people that need mental health help and things like that.

Serena:
Yeah. I mean, it’s just like, as I said, like college, it’s, it’s a crazy time, especially, you know, especially if you’re an incoming freshman, it’s a whole new chapter of your life. And I don’t know, I just thought, like I heard from many other people too. It just wasn’t, it wasn’t just me that it’s happened to them. Like they couldn’t see someone for months and I just thought that was absolutely kind of bizarre in a way. So that’s why finding other organizations that, you know, will help you and will do anything they can. It’s important. And I, that’s why I want to get their names out there.

Brad:
Yeah. I think that’s a huge, I think that’s a huge step forward because yeah, like I said, you know, I can tell you story after story about, about, you know, times where you’ve actually, and it’s hard. I mean, I mean, listen, it’s very hard even to bring yourself to saying, okay, I’m going to go open up to someone that I don’t know, that’s a stranger. And you know, you’re trying to find someone you have a connection with. So not only is there a challenge of finding somebody with a pulse, but finding someone in that actually like you connect with. I mean, not now you’re going like an nth degree further than that. So yeah, that, yeah, that’s, that’s always been the biggest thing I’ve seen or the, the biggest challenge that I feel I wish there was a way that, that we could find in the world to help rectify because, and it’s all, as you said, I mean, it is only gonna get more complicated, more challenging and, and, you know, there has to be a better way and maybe, you know, maybe virtual telehealth type softwares and technology and platforms are gonna, maybe they’ll help it. Um, maybe there’s a shortage of people, you know, I, I never knew kinda why, uh, you know, why they were always so much demand and not enough supply but it is what it is.

Ashley:
I was going to ask too, just from the beginning of when you first created everything up until now, have you found the priorities have shifted just as maybe people have reached out or as you’ve built your team and have gone out there and works with other organizations, have different priorities shifted over time from then to now. And of course now we have COVID and all of that stuff too.

Serena:
Yeah, no, I’ve actually had people reach out. And as I said, like just come to the organization, I feel like they feel comfortable with it. And I think also the organization itself, it’s mostly like around my age group, like our, my team right now. So, and I actually spoke with, um, this guy, his name’s George, and he, um, he is a speaker for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He actually helped me with a lot, but he even said, he’s like, it’s amazing how you guys are doing this because people are comfortable around your age group. They want to hear you speak. They want to talk with you because especially, you know, this age group itself, it’s kind of where like, you know, life is a little weird, especially for me right now coming out of college. Like I definitely, you know, it’s a big transition. So it’s just, there is definitely different priorities, as you said, COVID has gotten in the way with a lot of things, but, um, we’re still working hard and we’re still working on different goals and ideas. So I said to my team, we’re not going to stop. If anything, we’re just going to keep going and we’re not going to be in the dark. Like once, you know, the new norm, whatever life is going to be after this, like we’re going to be getting prepared and we’re just going to be going right into it.

Ashley:
Yeah. Have you found that more people are reaching out to guys again? I guess now it’s a little different, but for speaking engagements and stuff, just over the course of time, how did, how did you get your name out there and how did they say maybe that they heard about you guys? What did you hear? Um, or I guess I should say, how have you heard that people have heard the word about you.

Serena:
Social media, one huge, but especially since you know, this organization’s obviously in the honor of Pat families are very much involved and families tell their friends and they tell their friends. So it’s all about the connections. And as I said, people have DMD either applauding it, or people have DM just saying like ideas and everything too. I always say I’m open to any person wanting to join or anything because I think the more people brings more ideas and that’s what I want this to be about. I want every single involved, it does not matter if you knew Pat, it does not matter if you are in the state of New Jersey. I think that, you know, the world needs something like this. So it’s just continuing to get the name out there by social media really. And then, um, hopefully in the near future we can have events. Um, I’ve had to cancel a lot, obviously, so it’s a difficult time, but we’re pushing through that’s all.

Brad:
And what have you learned? You know, obviously you just, you started your organization little less than a year ago. Like what have you learned since then? I mean, obviously starting nonprofits, not an easy thing. Right? You got to fill out all that crazy paperwork. You got to go through this process. How did that go for you? Like, like where did, where did you find kind of challenges or, you know, what, what kind of surprised you about, uh, you know, kind of being a not-for-profit, cause it’s a lot more than anybody would ever think.

Serena:
No, and that’s definitely true. So filling out the paperwork and everything. So before I even did that, I sat down with like my board. Um, and I said, I asked them if they wanted to be part of it. So before I did anything, I knew I had to have people that would want to be registered with the state and everything too. And they were all for it, which was great. So obviously went through the whole process of getting approved by the state and everything too. And then I think in the beginning, not even, I think I know in the beginning it was very, it still is a little difficult for all of us to, you know, be on board with things and I’m getting ideas out there. I’ve actually just developed a whole like advocacy team. Um, so we meet with them to, we just had a meeting last night actually. And we talk about all different ideas we have and everything, and they’ve been absolutely amazing. So, um, I think we’re taking it day by day of what we can all contribute and all what we can all just do itself. Um, it’s not easy and I’m really happy. You said that too, because I don’t think people actually think of it like that. You know, I have people that I think like, okay, you started an organization. That’s great. Like there’s a lot more to it than people know. And I don’t even like explain myself to them because I’m proud of the work I do. And I’m proud of, you know, the people who want to support in the people who are part of it. And that’s all that matters to me.

Brad:
Did you file your 990 postcard for this year?

Serena:
My what?

Brad:
Yeah, exactly. See. Yeah. So I mean, it’s very funny and I, I bring it up kind of ingest, but not just, um, what’s funny is that a lot of organs, a lot of people will start not-for-profits and uh, most people in your position will have, they have their mission down, they have their, their vision down, they have their goal down, they do everything they need to do. And then I’ll and then, and then eventually someone that you get a letter in the mail that says, hi, you forgot to file tax returns for the last three years. You’re now no longer a charity. And you’re like, Oh my God, what did I forget to do

Serena:
With my first concern? When I first I would like saying to my dad and like, but what about tax returns? He’s like, all right, it’s right. I like, just we’ll take care of that. Let’s just like, you know, get approved by the state even before any of that. I was like, okay. That was like my first question. That’s really funny. You say that.

Brad:
We’re working with Matt, we’ll help you out. We’re good. We got you covered. We’ll make sure we’ll make sure we’ll make sure the IRS doesn’t come breathing down your back. It’s all good.

Serena:
I’m like, Oh my gosh, the IRS is going to comfort me.

Brad:
I know. Well, once again, you know, starting a new charity starting organization, you know, most people in your shoes are very mission, mission oriented and envisioned first. And, and it’s, it’s hard to do. I mean, there’s legal compliance, there’s a whole host of things. And now, now your organization, or are you paying salaries yet? Are you, are you doing, uh, going that route yet?

Serena:
No, not yet. I mean, as I said, we’re taking it slow and I, the next few years all going to be about growth. Um, and I hope it turns into something like that. I would love that, you know, I’m very passionate about it. Never thought it was been doing anything like this didn’t even go to school for like psychology or anything like that. Wasn’t no, I wasn’t entertainment major. I was working in a theater and then, um, now I just have this, so it’s, it’s kind of crazy, but as I said, I’m really passionate about this and taking it slow and just see where it goes. And I really hope it does become something like that. I would love that.

Brad:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you have all the potential to do it. That’s, that’s, that’s awesome. So I guess, I guess for my, um, you know, we’ll call it, we’ll call it suicide awareness perspective, you know, where, where do you feel that, um, when, when you talk with, with constituents, people that, that are looking for help, you know, where do you feel that there’s common misconceptions or things that, you know, if you were to raise awareness to something suicide related, what would it be? I mean, obviously, you know, unfortunately you went through a personally, uh, with it with a close friend, you know, where do you feel that if you were to, if you were to kind of, you know, give a couple bullet points or a couple of thoughts that you think most people don’t think about, whether they’re in that position or whether they’re friends in that position that, Hey, you know, I remember of going through this, but I didn’t take this cue or, you know, whatever it might be. And I know that might be a little personal question and I apologize if I put you on the spot with a personal question.

Serena:
No, it’s okay. Um, I think personally for me, I’ll speak on my behalf with going through it. Um, I think at first, when everything happened, you kind of question yourself, you question, what did I not see? What did I, and there’s no one to blame. There’s absolutely no one to blame. I want people to understand that too. It’s a tragedy and it’s changed my life in so many ways. And I, as I said in the beginning, I knew that there was something I had to do. So if people are going through, you know, they lost someone suicide or, you know, they’re in a funk, especially with everything going on, like you first think about just your life in general. And you think about, you know, the good things, the, all the pros to it. Um, and then reaching out for help. I know that’s always said, but it’s not it’s you have nothing to be ashamed of for reaching out for help. It’s okay. To not be okay. And just you utilize resources and just, you know, talking to people that you care about too. And for me also, um, I reached out to people that I talk to every day, or I reached out to people. I haven’t talked to him forever just to see how they’re doing. Cause even a simple hello and a simple, how are you goes a long way. Um, and before, you know, anything happened, uh, I always knew what mental health was. Not, not as much as I do now, but as Matt said before, we weren’t really taught it in high school that wasn’t like really a big thing. So, you know, once it happened, it’s kinda like, okay, now I need to do something. And I’ve learned so much about what it actually is. So if people do unfortunately go through it, it’s kinda like, okay, you learn about it. And then now you, you can teach it to people too. So there’s a lot to that I know. But, um, yeah, I mean it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to reach out and it’s okay to do things like this to, to make, you know, an impact.

Brad:
Because like, yeah, like, like in high school, I’ll get, I’ll give you a personal story in high school. Um, I, you know, I, I have, I have a bad case of OCD and OCD is, you know, has a myriad of things and no one understands. People just think like, this is a crazy person. They walk around in circles, but there’s like so much more to it mentally. And, and, and like chemically and genetically and everything that I think a lot of people, I, you know, when you’re going through it, you have no idea what the hell is going on. You’re just like, my brain is telling me to walk around in circles and, you know, take the towel off the rack and keep putting it back on until I feel less anxiety. Right. And it’s a weird thing. And, and, and I think I, you know, learning from that experience, I’ll tell you, uh, and you were, you raised education in schools? I felt that I felt so alienated by my school because one day they brought me into the counselor’s office and they were like, and they actually asked me to leave the school and like go into like check myself into a mental hospital. And I haven’t, I wouldn’t call myself a crazy person, but I I’d say I was like, I was functioning. I mean, I was a straight a student. Right. It wasn’t, it wasn’t like I was failing every class. And there, you know, I was, I was endangering anybody, but I, you know, I was just experiencing some unusual mental disorder that a lot of people don’t, and that morphed into like a whole lot of other feelings of, you know, do I really want to do this life anymore? Because this is how everybody’s looking at me. And the school’s telling me to leave. There was all these factors. It led me down this really, really bad path. And the, and the way I got back on the track was, you know, I ended up living with a family member who had a similar issue and not on the same issue, but, but helped me through it. And they, they, like, I live with them for a week and they coach me through it and we talked, we just talked and it got me back onto a normal, you know, a regular path. And then over time, like my family helped me find a therapist. And, you know, eventually you get back, you get back to a normal life, but, but I can tell you, like, you go from, you go from being totally fine to one event or one thing or one, one happening. And now all of a sudden you get, you get derailed. And, you know, if you don’t have the support system around you to coach you through it or guide you, or, you know, family members may, may, may especially close family members, you know, they, they may be harsh on you because they may be like, why are you doing what you’re doing? Like you weren’t like this yesterday. And I think a lot of people, you know, I always just, whenever I talk about the topic, I just, I always want everybody to know that, like, as you said, and I think you’ve coined it very well. It’s, it’s like, you’re not alone. It’s okay that you reach out, it’s okay to talk about it. And by the way, you know, you should do it. You, you need to actually, you know, you need to instill some level of hope in yourself. Otherwise, you know, you’d go down a very dark path and it’s hard to get yourself out of your own head, especially when you have OCD. Cause your, your mind is regurgitating the same negative thought over and over again. So anyway, I digress.

Serena:
Well, thank you for sharing that, but yeah, no, but also like now that you say that it’s like, we live in a world that not even do people judged so harshly, but they judge so quickly. So that’s what I just thought of when you just said that. So I mean, as I said, thank you for sharing that, but it’s true. It’s, it’s just, it’s kind of crazy. Like you have, you know, you were saying OCD and everything and like you go and all now, like people are probably staring at you different and all this stuff. It’s it’s honestly kind of sad in a way too, but, um, thank you for sharing that

Brad:
And not to date myself, but we didn’t have social media back then. And thankfully, like, you know, Facebook didn’t exist, Instagram didn’t exist. Uh, I don’t think MySpace was out yet, but it might’ve been, but I mean, I mean, I could tell you, I could tell you, you know, I, I’m talking about just like my, the way my family members and the way like some school guidance counselor, like judge me or that that’s how I perceived it. Right. Whether that actually happened or not, who knows. And it doesn’t matter at this point, but the, the bigger picture is if, if my friends were on social media, like, like, like making a tick tock video about me being all crazy in the head. I mean, imagine the effect that that has in somebody and I’m scared to death of my, my kids when they have to go to school, have the effect that, of how negative, you know, social media can be. And, you know, I dunno if you, if, if you watch the Netflix series 13 reasons why, but if you, if you really, if you really want to want to, you know, put yourself in a dark place or think about how these things happen, you know, watch that show and you realize, like, it just scared the hell out of me about social media, social media, and bullying, and how the littlest thing you can do multiplied by 13 people are multiplied by many people, the effect that it has, and it blows my mind and it, that show messed me up. Actually, it really, I liked it for a while.

Speaker 1:
There’s, there’s a lot of, you know, controversy with that show. Um, I actually, I watched like the first season, I don’t know how many seasons they have now, and then I stopped mid whatever. Yeah. So, I mean, I started the other, and then I just stopped for some reason, there was a lot of, you know, people who are for the young, there’s a lot of people who are not for the show, I see both sides. Um, but yeah, no, as you said, it’s a lot right now is also social media. It’s crazy. But, um, no, it’s just, we need to just stop judging so harshly and so quickly, it’s just, it’s truly just upsetting in a way too.

Brad:
It is. And it’s, it’s a challenge to, uh, it’s a challenge to manage your money. I mean, there’s no way to mitigate it because it’s, it’s, we’re so ingrained into it. And, you know, kids, you know, kids, especially kids, you think about kids that are 13, 14. I mean, they don’t fully understand or comprehend what they’re doing and, you know, nor can they, because they’re not, you know, fully developed as far as, as far as comprehension of, of the effect that, you know, the cataclysmic effect that, Hey, I called someone a name. Well, you don’t realize the effect that bullying that, that what you just did, hasn’t somebody, and it gets multiplied with social media because it’s so quick because everybody has access to it. Everybody sees it, people comment on it real time. People are commenting on it, not to your face. They’re commenting on it behind a computer screen, which is a whole nother layer of nonsense that’s going on right now and scary, scary stuff.

Serena:
Yeah.

Brad:
So, you know, as an, as an organization, are you currently doing fundraising? Are you, are you doing outreach for raising funds?

Serena:
So, um, we had fundraisers planned, um, canceled, but, uh, we had like a restaurant fundraiser, which was great. And then right now I’m not really doing much fund raising in a way for the organization because of just, you know, people who have lost jobs in the, I don’t, you know, I just don’t want to ask for money if that makes sense. So we’ve been doing a lot of donations, which have been great, and like we’re working, you know, to contribute those donations to, especially with what’s going on in the world right now. Um, but we have fundraiser ideas for the future. Um, it’s just, we’re in a weird place. So I can’t really put a date on anything. I mean, if anything, probably not until the next year in-person fundraiser. Um, so right now it’s really just been a lot of donations, which have been great to just you, we have sold a lot of shirts, which have been great too, but nothing Fundrise or wise as a writer.

Matt:
Yeah. I was going to say like right now, if you could come up with like your dream fundraiser for, uh, for, uh, people are there, what, what, what’s your dream fundraiser idea?

Serena:
Dream fundraiser? Sorry to put you on the spot with that, but,

Serena:
It’s okay. What’s the dream fundraiser cause like any fundraising that we talked about, like, I’m like, I’m so excited to plan, as I said, I’m open to anything, but what I’ve always brought up, no matter if people are for it or not, I’m probably still just going to do it. I really want to do like a chair, Yogi open mic type of night, because in a way it’s like, okay, come express yourself. Like all this stuff, my dad works at like a venue. So I was like, we can do it there. That would be great.

Matt:
You should have your dad play.

Serena:
My dad’s a musician. So that’s why he’s saying that. But, um, no, but I just, like, I’ve been saying that for months now. I’m like, I really just want to do like a karaoke open mic. And some people are like, no, like the guys mostly were like, no. And I was like, I’m still gonna do it. So it’s, I don’t know. I just think like it’s a way to come and express yourself too. And whether, I mean, I’m not a singer or anything, but I still, I guess go up there and sing, like, why not? I just, I think that would be fun. I don’t know if it’s my dream fundraiser. I don’t even know what my dream fundraiser would really be. I was really on the spot. Wow. I never actually thought of that.

Matt:
I forgot to send you the question list earlier this weekend. So you could point to that. I logged on, I forgot to send her the question.

Brad:
What’s yours.

Serena:
Yeah what’s yours?

Matt:
Polar plunge. The one, no, no, not polar plunge. The lantern festival from Stockton. The one that we did there, we did, we have, there’s like a Lake out on, uh, Stockton’s campus. And we did it for, um, uh, brain cancer awareness and, um, for the Allman cancer fund and everything, it was kind of like almost, it was like almost like up, but, um, I wanted them to like fly up, but the Greek adviser told me if I let a tree on fire, I’ll go to federal jail for like the rest of my life. And I don’t think I do well in jail, so.

Ashley:
Well, we’re happy that you’re here and not, you know, elsewhere because of your lantern.

Brad:
I’m glad he was the advice. Yep. That’s good.

Matt:
We did the little led, a light bulbs and the little led lights. So, uh, so no trees, no, no pine barons are burnt down that night

Ashley:
And you should absolutely do your open mic night. I think that sounds awesome. I mean, and even everybody is attending, they don’t necessarily have to get on, get on stage and say anything into them. But I think that would be awesome. Have like a lineup of the few people and then leave it open. See if anybody like, you know, wants to test out the waters

Matt:
I’ll be out there singing.

Brad:
You don’t see that. That’s not a, it’s not a common, you know, always coming up with a unique idea for doing a fundraiser is, is a good, you know, is a good thing. In any event, you know, you get really creative and you do it. You figure out a way to do it now. Right. Without being in person and that’s not easy to do.

Serena :
Exactly. And I’m like, one of those people I’m like, we’ll have raffles, we’ll have food, we’ll have this. Like all of the, I just like, I just can see it happening and I’m like, we need to do it. So once this is over, that’s the first thing I’m planning now.

Matt:
If you got a delis, raffle, count me in.

Brad:
So Serena what’s your song? You got to have, you have a karaoke song,

Serena :
Everyone. Okay. Everyone has a go-to karaoke song. I know it. Um, so I actually asked this question a few months ago, but mine, it’s kind of weird, but mine’s the Copacabana. So random, but like I love all music like that. So like the Copa cabana is definitely mine.

Ashley:
Okay so when you have your open mic night, we’re going to plan on you kicking it off.

Serena:
Alright. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Why not?

Ashley:
Awesome. Yes. I feel like having the vision is the biggest part though. I mean, I’m sure you feel that way about just kickstarting it, just having the initial vision. So that goes into your fundraiser to just keep holding onto that. Cause anything that you’ve envisioned long enough, I really think you can make it happen. That’s my perspective on those things. And that sounds fun.

Brad:
That it does. Yeah. I want to go. I want, I want to go now, you know, you don’t want to hear me sing that. Yes. Just shut it off. You know, like turn, turn on mute. Let me like put me behind a glass window and let me, let me have at it with the, uh, crazy songs. But, uh, yeah, no, that’s cool. So I guess, I guess as a, as a newer charity, as, as a, you know, kind of, kind of, you know, starting organization, raising organization, you know, where do you feel that, that, you know, you need help? Like whether it be, I don’t know, donations, whether it be volunteers, whether it be partners in crime, but you know, where do you, where do you see that, that you and your organization, you know, needs, needs help or you know, if someone listens to this and says, I want to help, like, what would it be? Where, where do you think you need the most, most assistance?

Serena:
I think, as you said before, volunteers I’m open to anyone. Like I want everyone to volunteer. I just think that, you know, this, I want this organization. I always say this. I want these organizations to be beneficial, obviously, but I also wants to be very and different. And that’s why, you know, I’m glad zooms that thing because I actually do have people on my team who are not in the seat right now, and they still contribute so much to it. So if you’re listening and you want to be involved, just reach out the People Are There, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, websit should be up in the next month or so. Um, and I’ll have like a contact thing on there as well, too, but just, I would never say no to a volunteer. So that’s definitely something. Um, and then I guess, I guess if it’s held, not even helped us, you know, continuing to spread the word about people are there, which would be great, but just spreading the word about mental health and just shining a light on it because it’s still in the dark and, you know, just prioritizing the whole thing itself. That’s what the word is Asians obviously about, but just making it really know, like you can tweet “be kind”, but then take the step and actually be kind, I don’t know. That’s just my perspective on it, but I’m just prioritizing the whole thing in general.

Brad:
Yeah. And you, you now, you now have one more follower. So on Instagram, I’m on Instagram. So the People Are There Foundation. If you’re looking on Instagram to try to find the, uh, find the site here, but yeah. Yeah. I’m uh, I only do Instagram. I don’t, I don’t do, I don’t do any of the other ones.

Serena:
That’s okay. I still appreciate it. Thank you.

Brad:
Yeah, no, it’s good stuff. It’s definitely good. I’m even like, I’m looking on here. I see a, I see the 12 days of quarantine checklists that Matt was talking about before. Yeah,

Serena:
Yeah. That has all our days on it. Yep. That was very successful.

Brad:
Yeah. Good, good stuff. Good stuff. All right. Great. Any, anything else you want to share with us? Anything else that’s, uh, you know, fresh in mind that we didn’t really cover?

Serena:
I guess I just want to share to anyone who listens to this. I know this might sound funny, but if you have an idea, go for it. Um, this is truly the best thing to happen to me. And besides, you know, the circumstance itself, you know, I feel like doing something in the honor of my friend as truly changed my life. And also I’m going to be this person to the young females out there. I started the organization as a young female. I have a team really only of guys like, you can do it. And I just want to make that known. And I think that needs to be known too. So just know if you have something and all the, obviously the young males to please, it’s not like that, but just know that if you have something in mind and you think you can make a difference, like go for it, don’t let anyone stop you.

Brad:
Yeah. I think, I think that’s the best message of all is, is, is if you’re passionate about something, you know, you can make it happen and you should make it happen. And, and you shouldn’t let, let things get in your way and, and, you know, reaching out to people like you who have done it, I think is a, is a huge step in, you know, most of the, most of the charitable leaders I talked to, you know, generally speaking, they’ve, they’ve had a support system or they’ve had others they’ve reached out to, and, you know, our, our hope is with doing, you know, doing this podcast and doing this is actually, uh, exactly that, which is, you know, now hopefully there might be another young lady that might have a different idea and says, you know what? I want to call Serena because she just went through this and you know what? She sounds like a fun lady to go talk to. And there you go. Now you just multiply the impact because not only are you doing what you’re doing, but now someone else is, is going to do something that they, they were hesitant about it, they may, and it may or may not have done. So yeah, definitely a great, great message you share with us. So we appreciate that.

Serena:
Thank you.

Brad:
Hey warriors. Thanks for tuning in. On the next episode of Civic Warriors, we talk with Tom Szaky from TerraCycle Global Foundation about how plastic and garbage is a bigger problem than we all understand and how they are tackling these global issues, head-on, make sure to subscribe to Civic Warriors and thanks for all your support. Have a great day.

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