THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our March winner donates his time to help people living with mental illness

FOX 47 is partnering with The Jefferson Awards to recognize people in our community that are making a difference.
Our first winner is Kevin Andrews, a volunteer that is committed to helping people with mental illness.

Andrews is a Warmline volunteer and answers about 50 calls a month.
Warmline is a non-crisis peer support line for people living with mental illness.
A lot of the calls Warmline receives are from people who want to talk about relationship issues or loneliness.
Anyone can call the number (507-287-7161), and volunteers like Kevin are there to listen.

"It’s something that’s needed and apparently I’m a very soothing person so something I have a knack for I guess," Andrews said. "You always have to give back some how."

Warmline is run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southeast Minnesota (NAMI).
Courtney Lawson, the NAMI Executive Director, says Kevin consistently makes Warmline a priority and is a good listener.

"I think he listens in a very compassionate, non judgmental way," Lawson said. "He understands. He is able to validate what callers are saying just to make them feel heard, and sometimes we don’t always feel heard."

Andrews has been a Warmline volunteer for over ten years.

He answers calls at least once a week for four hours.
The Warmline Coordinator says he was very apologetic about the one day he’s ever missed…and that was for his wedding!  

"You have to be in all the way," Andrews said. "They need somebody that’s dependable and that is interested in this"

All of the Warmline volunteers are also recovering from a mental illness.
Andrews says he’s overcome some very unhappy times and that answering Warmline calls helps him too.

"To me I always feel better if I’m doing something for somebody else," he said. "That’s always been my nature."

Before Warmline, Andrews was a Crisis Hotline volunteer in California…
and an emergency room volunteer.
He says he enjoys giving back.

"You know kind of pay my rent so to speak is the way I put it," Andrews said. "You know we’re all here benefiting from each other and just kind of a way of paying back."

To nominate someone for a Jefferson Award click here.

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