Support NAMI–Finger Lakes!

Welcome to The Sophie Fund’s 2022 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community wellbeing.

This year’s campaign is collecting funds for the Finger Lakes affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

NAMI-Finger Lakes provides free support, education, and advocacy for people closest to those living with mental health conditions. An organization slogan is, “With NAMI Finger Lakes, you are not alone.”

100 percent of the donations to the 2022 Cupcake Button campaign will go to NAMI-Finger Lakes.

Among its activities, NAMI Finger Lakes runs a HELP Line at 607-273-2462. Experienced volunteers answer calls for support and mental health resources with empathy and understanding.

NAMI Finger Lakes offers a variety of programs to support and educate community members concerning mental health.

The Family-to-Family Education program is designed to help improve the coping and problem-solving skills of family members, significant others, and friends of people with mental health conditions.

Other programs include peer-led family support groups and education sessions for those providing care for youth with mental health symptoms. NAMI Finger Lakes also engages in outreach such as talks to local groups and connecting with employers about workforce mental health.

In addition, NAMI Finger Lakes advocates for public policies for improving mental health at the local and state levels.

Click here for more information about NAMI-Finger Lakes.

This year’s Cupcake Button campaign is supported by many student organizations, including Cornell University’s Cornell Minds Matter, Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter, Reflect at Cornell, Phi Sigma Pi, Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health (PATCH), Cornell Circle K, and Cornel Health International.

Students raise money through various in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) on campus and in the community. The campaigns have raised more than $5,000 for organizations including the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, the Village at Ithaca, and The Learning Web.

The symbol of the campaign is a Cupcake Button, because the fundraising takes place in the runup to the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest hosted by The Sophie Fund. To enter this year’s cupcake contest, go to: https://thesophiefund.org/cupcake-contest/.

To donate directly to NAMI Finger Lakes, click here.

For more information about The Sophie Fund, go to:www.thesophiefund.org.

Time for the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest!

Still smell the flavors? Spicy apple, blueberry, vanilla-lavender, maple, mango, Earl Grey, crème brûlée, and of course chocolaty chocolate. among many other aromas, tantalized the imaginations of the judges of last year’s Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest.

We can’t wait to see what Ithaca’s amateur bakers come up with in 2022! For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, the contest will be in person again this year, on Saturday October 15 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.

As usual, contestants of all ages are welcome and will be eligible for dozens of prizes including a Grand Prize valued at $250. (Open to amateur bakers only.)

Contestants are invited to submit trays of six cupcakes, their recipes, and brief stories about their creations.

The story could be about a person, place, or thing that inspired your recipe and decoration. Or what special techniques you used. Or what fun you had baking them. Or what challenges you had to overcome making your cupcake dream a reality.

Contest submissions are received from 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 15 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. The entries will then be judged by professionals from Ithaca’s bakeries and restaurants. Judging is based on cupcake taste, decoration, and originality. Winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony at 3 p.m.

Prizes include 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Awards, a Youth Award for teens and pre-teens, and several Special Awards.

The 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Cayuga Health, MindWell Center, and GreenStar Food Co+op.

The contest is organized every year by The Sophie Fund, which was established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people.

Sophie’s passion for baking cupcakes inspired the launch of the first Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest in 2016. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

Learning Skills for Better Mental Health

Community members came together at The History Center in Tompkins County on July 9 to be trained in ways to help others who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.

Mental Health First Aid training

Melanie Little, director of Education at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, led the trainees through an eight-hour course in Mental Health First Aid, a program offered throughout the world that teaches everyday people the skills to support family members, friends, or others with mental health issues.

The 16 trainees were taught how to connect people to appropriate resources, that there is no-one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, and about the vital role that culture plays in how people understand and recover from mental health problems. 

According to Little, ongoing research provides evidence that the trainings improve people’s understanding of mental health and help combat the stigma that persists in society around these issues.

“County residents from a wide variety of backgrounds came together to learn and improve their confidence in providing support for the people in their lives,” Little said. “While learning about recognizing and responding to mental health concerns, trainees came together in lively conversation, bringing up real-life situations and learning from each others’ experiences.”

The training was supported by The History Center, which provided space for the training, and by a grant from The Sophie Fund at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

The Mental Health Association has trained 113 people in Mental Health First Aid so far in 2022, with more courses planned for the rest of the year.

For more information or to inquire about receiving training in Mental Health First Aid, contact Melanie Little, director of Education at the Mental Health Association: mlittle@mhaedu.org or (607) 273 9250.

Sign Up for Mental Health First Aid

Mental health challenges are more common than ever. Are you concerned about a friend or family member? Do you want to gain confidence in talking about mental health? Do you want to know more about what to do in a crisis?

Join the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County for a free Mental Health First Aid training on Saturday, July 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a comprehensive course from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The training teaches the skills to reach out and provide initial help and support to an adult who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.  

To receive certification, participants must attend for the full-day course, and complete a 2-hour self-paced pre-course. (For those without computer/internet access for the self-paced course, the Mental Health Association can provide space and a computer.)

This training is provided in partnership with The History Center in Tompkins County with financial support from The Sophie Fund.

MHFA covers:

         •        Common signs and symptoms of mental health challenges

         •        Common signs and symptoms of substance use challenges

         •        How to interact with a person in crisis

         •        How to connect a person with help

         •        Information on trauma and its impacts

         •        Self-care

MHFA teaches a five-step action plan for first aiders:

         •        A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm

         •        L: Listen nonjudgmentally

         •        G: Give reassurance and information

         •        E: Encourage appropriate professional help

         •        E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies

WHEN: Saturday July 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a break for lunch on your own)

WHERE: The History Center in Tompkins County, 110 N. Tioga Street (Ithaca Commons), Ithaca, NY 14850

COST: Free

TO REGISTER: Contact Melanie Little, Director of Education, at mlittle@mhaedu.org or (607) 273-9250.

—By Melanie Little

Melanie Little is the Director of Education and a Certified Peer Specialist at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County

Story House Ithaca: Sharing Stories, Building Community 

Story House Ithaca is built on a simple idea: Communities are healthier and more interesting when people get to know each other better. We think sharing stories can help make that happen.

Story House Ithaca co-directors Lesley Greene and Jonathan Miller with Nia Nunn of the Southside Community Center (L) and Christa Nuñez of The Learning Farm (R)

And not just “once upon a time” types of stories. There are many different ways to communicate experience and ideas—in fiction and nonfiction, poetry and song, journalism and documentary, theater and dance, oral history and spoken word, photography and film, puppetry and mime, graphics and animation, social media, multimedia, and media yet to be invented. We’d love for Story House to be a home for any and all of those forms of storytelling. 

We sometimes talk about Story House as if it’s an actual house. It isn’t, at least not yet. Our main inspirations are physical spaces where people come to gather—notably a wonderful building in the Netherlands called Story House Belvédère. But we don’t have the funds for our own place now, and we think there are advantages to popping up in public or online or in other people’s spaces. Who needs a building when you have the world? 

So what does Story House actually do? Since our first foray into programming in late 2019, we’ve organized an exhibition and event series on migration, a series of readings on exile and the search for home, and a panel on press freedom around the world. We produced a community-sourced video imagining life after the pandemic and a video celebrating the women and girls of a local community organization. We’ve sponsored workshops on cartooning, comedy, and songwriting, and promoted storytelling performances and a comedy show. On several occasions, we’ve collected video for other organizations eager to tell their own stories. Recently, we launched a speaker series we call “Placemakers,” featuring people and groups using art and culture to build community. 

Our most ambitious project to date is “Breaking Our Silence: Storytelling for Mental Health.” This is a series of events beginning April 23 that includes a film screening and Q&A, movement workshops on dealing with anxiety and grief, an open mic story night, storytelling performances at local churches, a panel on writing about mental illness, an advocacy workshop, and a community celebration at Ithaca High School that includes choral music, theater, dance, storytelling, and more. 

READ MORE “Breaking Our Silence”

One advantage to having such a loose definition of “story” is that we have no problem coming up with programming ideas. Lurking on our Google Drive is a spreadsheet with an ever-growing list. Several are for ongoing series, like the open mic Story Night that launches May 3, or a monthly Bar Choir, where friends and strangers can come together to learn and perform a song in three-part harmony, or a Listening Room for group deep dives into great audio, or a regular meet-up for swapping stories through song.

We’re also keen on annual or seasonal events, like a Black film festival that we hope becomes an Ithaca tradition, or events around Mother’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Indigenous People’s Day, or Mental Health Awareness Month. And we’re always game for one-off events (one of our favorites is a wide-open show-and-tell called This Thing I Did).

And we’re not just about events! With or without our own facility, we’d love to become a maker space for storytellers in any medium, where folks can work on projects together, or teach and learn and develop new skills. 

Which leads to another big idea behind Story House. It’s not about us. The Ithaca area is full of amazing groups and talented people. We’re happy to create and present original programming, but we see our greatest value as a catalyst and connector. Everyone has stories to tell, and we’d like to help them tell them. That may mean organizing a workshop or course, or helping with fundraising or planning or publicizing an event. Or it may just mean providing a soapbox and microphone and stepping out of the way. 

Story House Ithaca is a project of the nonprofit Center for Transformative Action. In all our programs and activities, we are committed to creating inclusive spaces that welcome diversity. We strive to foster interactions between people of different cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the goal of working toward shared understanding and a more equitable, anti-racist society.

If you’d like to be involved, or if you have an idea for a program, don’t be a stranger!

By Jonathan Miller and Lesley Greene

Jonathan Miller and Lesley Greene are the co-directors of Story House Ithaca. Miller is a journalist and documentary producer, and a board member of Ithaca City of Asylum. Greene is a playwright and theater producer, and the co-founder and co-organizer of Porchfest.

For more information, go to Story House Ithaca’s website. Send program ideas through the website’s “Pitch Us” form, or email info@storyhouseithaca.org. Follow Story House Ithaca on Facebook and Instagram