Shannon Waiter

How did you first become involved with NFCC?

I first became involved with NFCC in 2019, after one of the restaurants I was working with at the time was interested in hosting a tribute dinner to the late chef, Anthony Bourdain, The goal of the event was to garner awareness for mental illness, as the late chef had struggled with mental illness, as well as support a local nonprofit offering mental health services to those in need. We chose NFCC as the beneficiary for the event and received tremendous interest from the community and were able to raise funds through ticket sales and a raffle. There was such high demand we were even able to host a second event! I really loved all the work NFCC was doing for the community and after the event, NFCC’s Grants & Events Specialist, Natalie Lowry asked me if I would be interested in becoming more involved. I said yes and the rest is history!

You have served on our advisory board for three years. What are you most proud of NFCC for accomplishing during this time?

The NFCC team, like everyone else, has had to overcome many unexpected obstacles over the past three years. COVID caused their Annual Crawfish boil to be cancelled in 2020 and reimagined as a drive-thru event in 2021. The team ensured both remained successful events, raising $90,000 in 2020, and $120,000 in 2021 for the counseling center. NFCC also hosted a virtual Gala in 2020 which raised $280,000. With all the obstacles they faced, the team truly was able to power through to make lemonade out of lemons and ensure they could continue to serve their community!

Tell us a little about your personal views on mental health and why you think accessible and affordable mental health services are so important.

I think access to affordable counseling is crucial for every walk of life. My first experience with the importance of access to counseling was when I was very young. My dad became a licensed chemical dependency counselor when I was about 9 years old. He primarily worked with youth suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. I would go with him in the evenings to his group sessions at the local church and sit in the lobby while he was working. I would often meet the individuals in the group sessions, and they would share the impact the counseling sessions had on their lives. The individuals in those groups had come from every walk of life, and many may not have been able to afford counseling had it not been readily accessible through the church. Hearing and seeing their success stories showed me the importance of access to mental health services and that mental illness is a disease that needs to be treated professionally.

When you tell others about your involvement with NFCC, what are you most excited to share?

I love sharing that NFCC has an ever-growing group of young professionals and young families involved, along with a wonderful group of people who have been involved for a long time. Each and every person is genuinely passionate about the mission. This year at the Crawfish Boil was a great example of how the NFCC community came together and supported a great cause with enthusiasm and I am proud to be a part of it.