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Member’s Spotlight


We are honored to feature a member who has made a difference in our community and also made a significant contribution to NAMI Pierce County and its members. We thank our Spotlight Members for their dedication and commitment to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.



Laurel Lemke, a devoted NAMI Pierce County member, has been involved in many facets of NAMI for over 30 years. She has served in many positions, including on the state NAMI board of directors, and is certified as a Peer to Peer instructor, a Connection Support Group facilitator, and an IOOV (In Our Own Voice) presenter.

Laurel moved from Wisconsin to Pierce County 37 years ago to serve as a lay minister at a community college. Her career has focused on service to others in roles related to vocational rehabilitation, mental health recovery, advocacy and volunteer management. After retiring from Western State Hospital last summer, she has been providing training and consulting activities through her own company, Matters of Balance LLC.

Q: What is your greatest passion?

A: Connecting with people to do good work, especially through nonprofit board membership. I enjoy going to conferences to learn and collaborate. I am certainly looking forward  to volunteering and attending the 2019 NAMI National Convention 2019 this summer June 19-22nd at the Hyatt Regency Seattle. I also love doing comedy with ‘Stand Up Comedy for Mental Health’.

Q: How did you become involved in NAMI Pierce County?

A:When I was on the state board, I helped recruit peers from our county to participate in the first NAMI
Connection leadership training that was held in Washington state. However, NAMI Pierce County had closed within the year, so I worked with a group of new leaders to reestablish NAMI Pierce County.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?

A: I had a life changing experience when I attended my first National Convention in Washington, DC. in 1989 where I spoke on a panel and met Mary Ellen Copeland, who had published the “Depression Workbook”. Mary Ellen was key to my recovery journey, as I had an opportunity to do training with her and became involved with the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, eventually becoming an Advanced Level facilitator. I have also benefited from NAMI’s educational, advocacy, support and leadership opportunities. It took awhile to appreciate that they are all important and cannot stand alone.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges today?

A: Although our personal challenges differ, I can assure you that there is a lot to hope for and there is a lot of support available through NAMI and the peer community.



Name: Tom Clingan
My dad was a Coast Guard officer so my family moved often in my early years but most of my childhood was spent in the Bethesda, Maryland area. I met my wife, Carol (hometown Indianapolis, Indiana), in a chemistry lab at Ohio Wesleyan University. We married a few weeks after college graduation and moved to Miami, Florida where I attended medical school at the University of Miami. Carol and I then moved to Pittsburgh where she earned an MA in Speech Pathology and I completed my residency in Pediatrics and fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. We then moved to the Pacific Northwest where Carol worked as a speech therapist in the public schools and I joined the staff at the Developmental Pediatrics Clinic at Madigan Army Medical Center.
Carol and I are both retired now and are finding time to engage in various activities including volunteering for different organizations, learning new skills (fiddle & guitar, respectively), spending time with our children, traveling, and caring for a new puppy.  We have two daughters. Sarah is living in California and working part time while taking courses at USC to earn a MA in Education with the goal of becoming a public school teacher. Margaret has an MA in Developmental Psychology and works at Hope Sparks in Tacoma as an Infant Mental Health Specialist.

Q: What is your greatest passion?

A: The dictionary definition of passion is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” I think I have many of these “somethings” and it is hard for me to rank order them, but I would have to say that learning is one of my greatest passions. In the recent past I have learned new things about our justice system, the civil rights era, the history of genetics and human evolution, the Irish Revolution, the neurobiology of human behavior, the science underlying the effects of psychedelics on the brain and their potential therapeutic value, and the discovery of immunotherapy treatment of cancer. I hope to never stop learning!

Q: How did you become involved in NAMI Pierce County?

A:Peter Early, a former Washington Post reporter, author of the book  “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness”, and a NAMI member, has written that “NAMI is not like the ski club or local wine tasting group…few of us joined because we thought ‘Hey, that looks like a cool group to attend.” Like Peter and so many other NAMI members, I joined NAMI because my life was being consumed by my daughter’s mental illness. I needed emotional support from others who understood the feelings of grief and helplessness I had been feeling. I knew that part of my healing would come from helping others who were on similar journeys and becoming involved with NAMI education and support programs would be a way to do this.
I served as the Family Programs Coordinator on the Board of Directors for 3 years. In addition, I have been teaching the Family-to-Family class and facilitating the Family Support Group for 4 years. I also have participated in the yearly legislative advocacy sessions in Olympia and various outreach events.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?

A:Participating in NAMI activities has given me the opportunity to meet other parents whose children have lived with mental illness and to hear their stories. I met people of amazing strength, persistence, wisdom, and resilience in the face of great pain and loss. I learned to accept that not all problems are solvable, and that no matter how hard it is, we must and can go on. We can use our painful experience as an opportunity for personal growth and to advocate to improve the lives of all who are touched by mental illness.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges today?

A: I think it is important to validate the pain and suffering that accompanies mental illness, both for the individuals experiencing it and for the families of the individual. And while we must be honest and recognize that full recovery may not be achievable for everyone at this time, we must also believe that a life of meaning is possible in most cases if we help each other to find a way forward. We are truly stronger together. Finally, we must continue to advocate for adequate funding for research to help us better understand the underpinnings of mental illness and for comprehensive, compassionate care for those living with mental illness.



Debbie Ranniger, PhD, has been an active member in NAMI for many years and currently serves on the NAMI WA state Board.  She loves connecting with people in deep and meaningful ways, being part of something larger than herself, and giving back and teaching others.  She enjoys expressing her creativity through art, dance, writing, gardening, cooking and creative problem solving.  Debbie has taught with the University of Phoenix since 2003and recently retired from a career in non-profit management.  She is currently writing a series of essays and a memoir around mental illness and social advocacy, which she hopes to publish.

Q: Can you share with us a brief background that brought you to where you are today?

A: Community is so important to me.  I grew up as an only child after the loss of an adopted sister and brother.  The birth parents of my sister reclaimed her just before the probationary period ended when I was 5 years old and a couple years later, my brother died shortly before his second birthday due to a congenitally-related illness.  These tragedies shaped my life.  My parents fell into a deep depression and this may have contributed to the intensification of what I now believe was my father’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  Tragedy makes you grow… I felt very alone.  My family’s chaos caused me to reach out to find community, to find belongingness.  I sought avenues to express myself, and turned to the arts, dance, and civic engagement to embrace life.  I was determined to live to the fullest, for both my brother and myself.  By age 12, I was the president of the Red Cross club at my junior high school.  By 14, I was volunteering my time to build homes for itinerant farm workers in California’s Central Valley.  I also volunteered my time doing a major clean-up project to help elderly Chinese men stay in their flop-houses in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  By 17, I’d left home to attend the University of Washington, painting decorative murals on the walls of my dormitory’s community area and dancing with an international folk dance performing group.

Q: How and when you did you become involved in NAMI Pierce County and what different areas/activities have you have been involved in?  Why did you get involved in those areas? 

A: There was a point in my life a few years ago when a couple members of my close family and a dear friend were all suffering from severe mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorder.  Desperate to learn more and understand how best I could be supportive, I sought out NAMI and took the Family to Family course.  I found solace and comfort in the class, found friends struggling with the same or worse, and learned coping strategies for myself and ways to support my loved ones.   It was also during this time I realized that my father was probably undiagnosed bipolar, my family never knowing or understanding.  I joined NAMI, became certified as a trainer for the Family to Family class and the NAMI Smarts Advocacy class.  I enjoy teaching these courses as well as volunteering for NAMI at various fairs and festivals.  I do these activities because I want to help others, to do what I can to affect change to our mental health support system, or lack thereof, and because I feel connected and engaged to people who understand.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?  Was there anyone or anything that was instrumental in this?  

A: NAMI gave me hope and continues to do so.  NAMI also gives me avenues to engage and participate in meaningful ways to help advocate for change.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges?  

A: Acceptance, patience and no-judgments.  I think these words are important to both families living with someone suffering and to those suffering the illness as well.  It is so very hard to accept this illness, whether you suffer from it or live with someone who does.  It is difficult to be patient, patient in trying different strategies, different medications, different approaches.  Judging yourself or others perpetuates stigma and negativity and what good does that do?

Q: What was your most rewarding experience while working with NAMI? 

A: The most rewarding experiences I have with NAMI are when I can help connect people with resources they need for support.  While I cannot solve the big problem, I can help people alleviate some of the pain, isolation, confusion, and alienation that often accompanies this illness whether they are afflicted with it or have a loved one living with it.



Evelyn Bowen-Crawford has been a member of NAMI Pierce County for many years, serving as a teacher for both the NAMI Family-to-Family class and the Homefront program, and as a facilitator for the Family Support Group.  She and her husband, Henri, live in Tacoma with their two dogs. Evelyn is a social worker and enjoys reading and sewing

Q: What activities have you been involved in with NAMI Pierce County and why did you choose to get involved in those areas?   

A: As part of NAMI Pierce County, I participated in and facilitated the Family and Friends support group. I felt an obligation to pass on the support that I got from the organization. I also have participated in advocacy and NAMI Day in Olympia in order to fight for my loved one’s right and access to appropriate and effective treatment.

Q: You have given much time and support as a teacher and facilitator in NAMI programs.  Can you pick out an incident that made you feel that you might be making a difference in someone else’s life?

A: When my husband and I were teaching the Family-to-Family classes, we could see the positive change in our participants as they began to feel safe to share their experience, and gain strength and hope for their loved ones.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?  Was there anyone or anything that was instrumental in this? 

A: After my husband and I attended the Family to Family class (as participants) we were better able to communicate and work together to help and support our loved one and also each other.

Q: What is your greatest passion in life?

A: To understand others.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges? 

A: There is always hope. I can learn to cope. Things can get better.



Janelle Frazer has been a member of NAMI Pierce County since 2015 when she first attended a NAMI Family-to-Family class.  Since then, she trained to become a facilitator for the program and has taught five classes (each class runs for 12 consecutive weeks) for NAMI Pierce. She is presently co-facilitating the current Family-to-Family class that runs through November.

Janelle lives on the Enumclaw Plateau with her husband where they raised their two children.  She recently retired from her job in software development after 35 years in the field and is looking forward to some free time to play in the mountains and San Juan Islands, visit friends, hike, and learn new things.

Q: Besides being trained as a Family-to-Family teacher, you are also a Family Support Group facilitator. How and why did you get involved in those areas?

A: I became a trained facilitator so that we could provide mental health education in the East Pierce and Southeast King County areas where services are sparse. There is a need for those classes and programs there. We have had people come from as far as Renton, Maple Valley, Gig Harbor and Tacoma to attend classes in the Buckley/Enumclaw area.  I would encourage anyone who has considered becoming a trained facilitator for a NAMI Signature program to do so.

Q: Can you pick out a particular incident that made you feel that you might be making a difference in someone else’s life as a NAMI teacher or facilitator?

A: I often hear from former class members who say that they are very glad they attended the NAMI Family-to-Family class and they feel better for having done so. Their reasons for feeling better may be different, but they all feel that their life has been improved by giving themselves the gift of time to attend.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?  Was there anyone or anything that was instrumental in this?

A: NAMI provides so many resources in mental illness and I have been able to share those with others who have a mentally ill loved one.  NAMI Washington and many of the Affiliates have also been wonderful resources when I’ve had questions about programs.  I have appreciated all of them.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom would you give to someone living with mental health challenges?

A: Remember to take care of yourself in whatever way works for you.  Keep asking questions and seek information.  Consider attending a NAMI (Family or Peer) Support Group. We have all collected information, tools and strategies along the way—share them with each other.

Q: What was your most rewarding experience while working with NAMI?

A: A woman attended the first Family-to-Family class that I co-facilitated and seemed exhausted and ready to give up after a few classes.  She and her family had been trying to help their mentally ill relative for years and nothing seemed to work. However, something appeared to change for her around the sixth class session; her energy shifted, she sat differently and began engaging with others in class discussions.  By the last class she radiated with energy and joy.  This woman became a friend and she has told me more than once that the class changed her life perspective. I believe her words were “Taking that class changed my world”.



Jody Horn has had the opportunity to live in states across the country but considers the Pacific Northwest as her home.  She’s lived in Enumclaw for 15 years but is excited about moving to Tacoma soon with her husband.  They have two sons, aged 24 and 26, who are completing their graduate studies. After retiring from Pacific Lutheran University two years ago, Jody has poured her time and energy into teaching, and non-profit and hospice work.  She is a registered yoga teacher and a NAMI Family to Family facilitator and says she feels honored to be a hospice worker. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, taking long walks, jazz and classical music, dance (especially disco), calligraphy, and creative writing.

Q:What is your greatest passion in life? 

A: Making people feel valued. Ending stigma related to mental illness. Life-long learning and sharing what I think others could gain. Serving with justice, kindness and humility.

 Q: How and when did you become involved in NAMI Pierce County and what different areas/activities have you have been involved in?  Why did you get involved in those areas?

A: NAMI Pierce County has had a collaborative relationship with Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation (RFWF), a local nonprofit serving the surrounding community in which I live. In 2016, a good friend of mine who serves on the RFWF board told me about the Family-to-Family program. She knew I had a relative living with schizophrenia. My relative had a severe psychotic break and needed two months of hospitalization. While my relative was hospitalized, I vowed to do whatever possible to reduce the effects of stigma on mental illness. NAMI Pierce encouraged me to enroll in a Family-to-Family (F2F) class and then again supported me in taking F2F Facilitator Training.

Q: You have given much time and support as a facilitator in NAMI programs and also served on the Board of Directors.  Can you pick out one particular incident that made you feel that you might be making a difference in someone else’s life?

A: I thank NAMI Pierce for supporting me along my journey to learning more about mental health. When I share with others my NAMI involvement, people may feel freer to open up about their loved ones with mental illness. I spoke with someone earlier this summer about my involvement with NAMI and my relative with schizophrenia. We immediately connected; she shared that her son has schizophrenia, too. I told her about the Family-to-Family (F2F) class, and she is now participating in and benefiting from a F2F class. It’s all about breaking down the stigma of mental illness — it’s okay to talk about it. Education is key to breaking down stigma, and the educational and support programs NAMI offers are invaluable to those living with mental illness in addition to family and friends supporting them.

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?  Was there anyone or anything that was instrumental in this?

A: NAMI has had a profound effect on the way I think about, treat and love my mentally ill relative. Prior to my involvement in NAMI, some of my relative’s behaviors frustrated me. I simply didn’t understand. Now that I know more about the physiology of the brain and the disease itself – thanks to NAMI – I am kinder and more understanding. I can empathize as much as is possible. I now better understand the science behind my relative’s behavior.

There have been several people in NAMI who have made an impact on my life, mainly through NAMI Pierce. Key elements they have brought are lack of judgment, a kind ear, and knowing they genuinely care. I feel as though I now have permission, thanks to what I’ve learned through NAMI, to speak freer about mental illness. I know I’m not alone.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges?

A: Getting evaluated and finding proper treatment is essential. NAMI peer support groups are a valuable option.

Q: What was your most rewarding experience while working with NAMI?

A: The impact of the education and resources shared in the Family-to-Family classes has been significant. Listening to a class participant share a particular strategy they learned and successfully applied from class has been quite rewarding. I love seeing class participants connect during the 12-week session. On a personal level, the most rewarding experience I’ve gained from NAMI is having an authentic relationship with my relative, who is stable in a nurturing and predictable environment.



Karen I Davis was born in Seattle but her family moved frequently all over the country. She describes her early years and her family life as growing up in a white collar upper middle class dysfunctional family with an abusive alcoholic mother.
“Academic achievement was the measurement of success in my family and we had a personal library of approximately 5,000 volumes, so I was well read, reading at 3 years of age. My father only worked 10 months a year so that we could go on extended vacations every summer, which gave me the opportunity to visit many places far and wide. This was his way of compensating for his extended business trips during the rest of the year. To this day my favorite place remains the jungles of Guatemala, where we visited twice. I was accepted into the theatre arts program at San Jose State after high school but family circumstances dictated dropping out before starting the class. I ended up joining the Navy in 1979 and was trained as an Electrician's Mate. My history is complex; following prompts from my therapist I have recently started writing an autobiography.”  

Q: What is your greatest passion in life?  

A: Cats! Cycling!  Supporting others in their recovery journey!  I've always loved animals, particularly cats. Cycling was my biggest passion starting in adolescence and I am hoping that I can revisit cycling using electric assist if and when my health improves.

Q: How and when you did you become involved in NAMI Pierce County and what different areas/activities have you have been involved in?  Why did you get involved in those particular areas?

A: I was introduced to NAMI Recovery Connection in 2009 and took the facilitator training in 2010. I have since been trained as a Peer-2-Peer facilitator, IOOV presenter, and a Connection State Trainer. Initially I went to Connection because I desperately needed help. I got involved facilitating because Charan Bird, a NAMI Connection facilitator, saw my potential. I recognized my core value of supporting others early in life. With NAMI Pierce County I've been the publication manager, was on the Outreach Committee, and was a board member for 5 years. I was a key player when we had our mental health information booths and would like to see us revisit this program. I have been volunteering in some capacity since elementary school so volunteering with NAMI was only natural. If I have the talents and ability, and the job is in line with my values, then count me in.

Q: You have given much time and support as facilitator in NAMI program.  Can you pick out one particular incident that made you feel that you might be making a difference in someone else's life?

A: Since facilitating the NAMI Connection groups I have seen many people come into group for the first time with high levels of anxiety and/or depression, some to the point that they are unable to share or even stay through the group. Then I see the growth in them as they come back week after week. I've been witness to many who began group with nary a hope that life could ever get better and have watched them grow as they return every week and learn to embrace life and recovery. Group members tell me that I inspire them; if nothing else comes from my prior struggles, this is enough. To have shown others that one can thrive in recovery; is not this the best legacy?

Q: How has NAMI affected, helped, or changed your life?  Was there anyone or anything that was instrumental in this?

A: NAMI has saved my life. When I first found NAMI Connection I was in and out of hospitals; I’d had a major relapse in 2007 and did not seem to be getting any better 2 years down the road. My search for a connection with others had only resulted in my being ostracized from those I had thought of as family. I had finally come out of my "delusional years" but felt totally alone. NAMI Connection was the first place I had ever found where I received Sincere Uncritical Acceptance. I am caustic to many people because I refuse to be politically correct and I am not diplomatic. I'm not unkind, I just say it like I see it. And I see things differently than the majority of people. My being an outspoken antitheist asexual transgender woman gives people reasons to reject, dislike and yes, attack me… even without knowing me personally. I found unconditional love and support in Connection. For all of me. And I kept coming back.  Charan Bird was the first NAMI Connection facilitator in Pierce County and also one of the first Peer Support Specialists in Washington state. She led me to Connection and I am forever grateful.

Q: Based on your experience, what words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to someone living with mental health challenges?

A: The more tools you have in your Wellness Toolbox, the easier will be your recovery. Almost anything can be a tool if it helps you cope and has no negatives with its use. Take every class, therapy group, support group you have the opportunity for. And actively participate. Do everything with intent. You are in control of your own journey. Recovery is not about a destination, it is about the journey.  Recovery is a verb and when you treat it as such, amazing opportunities for wellness open up. You Are Not Alone! Find a Support Group and keep going back. Recovery is nonlinear. There will be setbacks and there will be triumphs. Always, however, the path is forward. Yes, even setbacks are forward motion when you learn from them.

Q: What was your most rewarding experience while working with NAMI? 

A: 10 years of facilitating NAMI Connection and seeing so many people grow and find wellness with the help of this group.



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