Carla Dawson’s Story

Tell us about how and when you first became involved with NFCC:

My family became close friends with the Finnegan’s through our kids, who were in the same grade at St. John’s School. When Nick passed away, it affected every single member of the St. John’s community. When that happened, all I wanted to do was reach out and help the Finnegan family work through their pain and grief. I started sending Susan Finnegan a letter every single month to let her know I was thinking of her and I did that for years. A few years later, while having lunch with Susan, she told me about their involvement with the St. Luke’s Center for Counseling and Life Enrichment. I knew I wanted to do something to help, so I drove straight there to volunteer. That led to me hosting a cocktail party to raise funds for the counseling center, which has evolved into their annual gala today.  

In your opinion, what is the most important work NFCC does?

The best thing about NFCC is the availability and flexibility they offer. For many people, it can be really difficult to find a counselor that can work with their schedule and financial situation. NFCC is so great because they are centrally located, they have 13 great counselors and they work with clients’ financial needs to ensure no one ever pays more than $95 per counseling session. The other great thing is that they are very forward-thinking in how they can serve their clients and the greater community. If people cannot come into the center, they send counselors to schools in HISD and to the Salvation Army to provide counseling. When NFCC did build a waiting list in the past, they held a building expansion and hired more counselors to meet the growing need for counseling. They make themselves available as best they can to the people who need counseling and are forward-thinking in how they can serve their clients and the community.

What do you find most challenging about addressing mental health needs?

I think the challenges regarding mental health needs are two-fold. The first is the difficulty individuals can encounter when trying to find help that is both affordable and accessible. Searching online for a counselor or psychotherapist that is reputable and affordable is difficult and time consuming. The second challenge I see is that many people still do not feel comfortable seeking help. I do think that Generation Z is much more comfortable seeking mental health help than any other generation, even more so than Millennials. They have started from birth utilizing social media and the Internet and have the greatest need for mental health help. I do have hope that seeking therapy is becoming more normalized, especially now when our world really needs it.

What motivates you to stay involved with NFCC?

My family has faced their own set of difficulties over the past few years. My husband has had a number of medical issues and my daughters, all in their early 20s, have dealt with anxiety. Life happens and while everything about our lives may look great from the outside, it’s not always rosy. We have sought out mental health counseling and it has helped our family immensely. You don’t have to wait for something catastrophic to happen to seek help. NFCC is so impactful in the fact that it offers so much in terms of availability and flexibility and I am blown away by its impact. I am so happy to watch it grow and will continue to support it.