Jefferson Award Winner promotes mental health

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) –  Therese Roellich is leading the charge to promote mental health. “I want people to know they don’t have to be afraid to talk about mental health issues, mental illness. I used to be afraid but I’m not afraid anymore,” Therese said as she walked with La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat and other city leaders in the 8th Annual La Crosse County Striding for Mental Wellness Walk.

Therese doesn’t want anyone to have to walk alone. For the last 30 years, she’s been helping people who are struggling with their mental health or an addiction.

“I really feel that this is my calling from God to be there for someone and if I can’t be there to find somebody who can.”

Her first recollection of a volunteer effort for the community and social justice was a can collection in 7th grade for Earth Day. Since then she held offices for student government in high school, college, state level, and national level. She ran for Wisconsin State Assembly in 1992. She has been a Board of Directors member of The La Crosse Domestic Violence Intervention Project, Standing Together Opposing Pornography, Advisory Committees for Recovery Resources, Partners in Empowerment, Coulee Council on Addictions among others.

A woman with a passion for people, and it shows. “Volunteering for this volunteering for that, I saw her passion and every time I thought of service work I thought if I could be like her she’s got a heart for service,” explained  Dean Ciokiewicz, who wanted to recognize Therese for her work and nominated her for the Jefferson Award.

Therese has helped many people get sober, including Dean. “I feel off after four years but it’s how we pick up our sticks and keep moving with what we have,” explained Dean.

Therese knows how to help people because she’s been through it herself. “I’m a recovering alcoholic addict so in order for me to get sober I had to give to others but then I really wanted to give back to others.”

She continues her calling, hoping to turn a downtown office space into a drop-in resource center.

In addition to her volunteerism, Therese works as a supervisor at Recovery Avenue in La Crosse, a peer-driven, recovery focused drop-in center for adults living in mental health and/or substance abuse recovery.

Therese also runs karaoke for Coulee Council on Addictions at the Coulee Recovery Center. She sets up and operates karaoke there the 3rd Saturday each month.

To nominate someone for a Jefferson Award, click here.

Brittany Lake

Brittany Lake

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