Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission. First we’d like to extend heartfelt gratitude to our Local Nonprofit Spotlight Sponsor, the lovely, bright and colorful Katie Ford, founder of Flowers By Katie. Flowers by Katie Ford was started after Katie experienced a debilitating mental illness. She found peace working with flowers during her darkest days. Now Katie and her team create floral designs for wedding, events, and workshops hoping it brings joy to each occasion.
This week we are spotlighting The Balance Project whose mission is to serve as a resource to those seeking emotional health and wellness support. We had the pleasure of hearing from Agi Semrad, Founder & President of The Balance Project. Agi tells us how and why the mission is very personal, her enormous gratitude to the countless volunteers and board members who have worked tirelessly to reach and support over 700 people this past year alone, and mostly importantly a message of encouragement to everyone: “there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence. If they or anyone they love is in need of support, please reach out to us.” Agi is a beautiful mix of warmth, kindness, selflessness and perseverance; perfect ingredients for a leader and champion of mental health. Welcome, Agi!
Hi Agi! Please introduce yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live? Do you have children?
Hi! My name is Agi Semrad. I grew up in Palatine, Illinois and attended high school at Fremd. I stayed in the Chicago area for my bachelor and masters degrees and now live in Highland Park with my husband, Patrick, and our two daughters, Espi (11) and Isa (9). I am the founder of TBP and currently serve as its president.
Photo credit: Sophie Baron
Tell us about the nonprofit that you founded, The Balance Project. When was it established and why. Does TBP speak to you personally?
The Balance Project was established in February, 2020, just when the pandemic began. I founded The Balance Project for three purposes:
- To build awareness on mental health and programming.
- To connect those in need to trusted resources.
- To eliminate financial barriers for those who cannot afford help on their own.
This vision is very personal to me. I grew up with undiagnosed anxiety because I never knew that mental health was accessible for me, nor could I afford it.
What is the mission of The Balance Project and who it sets out to serve?
The Balance Project is here to support mental health for you and those you love by offering education to promote awareness, identifying available mental health resources, and providing financial assistance for those resources. We serve everyone.
The Balance Project fills an important need, to help you and/or those you love find and access support and resources needed to build a better balance.
Speaking about the people that The Balance Project serves, how do families learn about this important resource?
They can start by visiting our website, www.thebalance-project.org. Through the site, families and individuals can find out more information about how to get involved or seek help. They can also call us at 773-653-2377.
Was it difficult to start this nonprofit? How did the idea come about?
It took a lot of work upfront. Having spent over ten years in various roles within the nonprofit space, I had a firm understanding of what it takes to start a nonprofit. Before launching The Balance Project last year, I had spent several years planning out its mission and strategy while seeking help and input from every resource I came across. I held weekly focus groups and brainstorming sessions with several future board members, such as Lesley Kiferbaum, and hired consultants when I could not find the help for free. Once we had a firm grasp of what we wanted to accomplish, it was a matter of putting the mechanics into motion, which takes literally thousands of hours from people like Chrissy Skillrud who has been a stalwart and true leader to the organization.
Who would you like to thank for the formation and success of The Balance Project and why?
My husband for pushing me to fulfill my purpose and supporting me through this process every step of the way. I am thankful & grateful for each and every board member for the countless volunteer hours that have made it possible for The Balance Project to reach and support over 700 people this past year. A huge GRACIAS to all our volunteers who saw the need for this kind of organization and continue to support.
What is most rewarding about being the founder of The Balance Project?
In the first year of The Balance Project, we have helped connect over 700 people to mental health programming or therapy without any focus on fundraising. We have proven the need for this mission. Now we need to build on that momentum and raise funds to support as many people as we can.
Do you have any upcoming fundraising events that our readers will want to know about?
Yes! We have an upcoming community event and we’d love you to join us: Garden Walk presented by Chalet at Moraine Park in Highland Park, Saturday, August 21, 10am-2pm. It’s going to be a lovely event. More details in the flyer below:
We are seeking volunteers to help facilitate the event so please reach out if you’d like to help!
What are other ways that our readers contribute and/or volunteer their time?
My goodness! There is plenty to do! Donations can be made through our website, www.thebalance-project.org We are an accredited 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible. We also host regular community events, like the garden walk that we mentioned above. Finally, we are always looking for more mental health professionals who would like to donate their time or can accept some patients for a discounted fee. Anyone interested can find out more information though our website.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about The Balance Project?
Just to remind the readers that there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence. If they or anyone they love is in need of support, please reach out to us.