Crisis & Counseling Centers’ (C&C’s) community partners and staff commemorated the agency’s 45th anniversary at the Annual Celebration & Art Reception on May 14 at Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta.

“This is our community, and it will succeed or fail based on our commitment to nurture our better dreams,” said outgoing Board President Dana Hamilton, who opened the evening. “These ideals have sustained C&C for four-and-a-half decades, and they will continue to sustain us for many decades to come – as long as there is a need, and unfortunately the need is greater today than it has ever been.”

The Annual Celebration & Art Reception highlights relationships that help the organization meet its mission, applauds vital public service providers and recognizes the important work partner agencies do in the community.

CEO Michael Mitchell presented the CEO Special Recognition Award to Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, citing Wright’s embodiment of the mission and spirit of C&C through his leadership in the Gardiner community.

“If you have been watching Gardiner over the past four or five years, it has transformed into…a place that is vibrant,” Mitchell said. “In thinking about what Patrick has been doing, it really is a transformation. Our agency is in the transformation business, and so is he. We want to celebrate his outstanding job with Gardiner Main Street.”

Sergeant Vicente Morris of the Augusta Police Department earned this year’s Public Safety Appreciation Award for his approachability, collaboration with crisis workers and dedication to providing the best possible services to local residents.

“In the world of crisis, this type of collaboration [that we have with Sgt. Morris] is so incredibly important,” said Crisis Mobile Triage Manager Tara Karczewski-Mitchell, who presented the award. “We value our relationship with local law enforcement because we must work together to provide the best care possible to the people of our community who need it most.”

The Red Barn was named C&C’s Organization of the Year Award for the restaurant’s dedication to helping local people and businesses, and the willingness of owner Laura Benedict to act as a champion for behavioral health disorders.

“Stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse…is a barrier that those of us working in the community combat each and every day,” said Hannah Longley, C&C crisis clinical manager. “Laura and the Red Barn crew have been at the front lines of this fight, raising awareness for those who often suffer in silence and worry about reaching out for help.”

When accepting the award, Benedict shared her experience of publicly announcing her struggle with bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse to the restaurant’s 38,000 Facebook followers. “Thousands of people said, ‘Laura, you can do it….Thousands more private
messaged me and said ‘I am going to seek treatment. Thank you for giving me the courage to know that if you can do it, I can do it,’” Benedict said.

“I will never tire of telling anybody that story because I’m not ashamed. I am a woman afflicted, I am a woman with bipolar [disorder], and I’m a woman that just has to work a little bit harder to get well – that’s all I am. And I’m 100 percent OK with that,” she said.

This is the first year the agency’s annual event also incorporated an art reception to promote the therapeutic benefits of creativity. More than 40 pieces of artwork from local middle- and high-school students were on display as a gesture of support for community members facing behavioral health concerns.

Thirty-four businesses sponsored the event, including: VIP Sponsors, the Kennebec Journal and Norton Financial Services; Art Sponsors, Budget Document Technology and Kennebec Savings Bank; and Music Sponsors, PFBF CPAs and Riverside Disposal.

For more information about C&C’s Annual Celebration & Art Reception, visit To sponsor next year’s event, contact Courtney Yeager at