Penny with her husband and children. Photo credit: Lisa Page

By Samuel Burley, Yeraldin Enriquez, Nathan Markley, Roewyn Umayam, and Boyue Xi, UW Bothell School of Business

“Anyone can be struck by mental health challenges at any time and they deserve medical attention/care and respect in the way we treat bodily illnesses.” These are the thoughts of first-year NAMI Seattle board member Penny Carothers conveyed to us about how we should approach mental health. Penny is passionate about supporting non-profit organizations and helping underrepresented communities receive mental health support. Recently over Zoom we got to learn about her life and how her experiences have inspired her to contribute to NAMI Seattle

As a child, Penny was always moving around. She was born in Washington and spent the first five years of her life in the Seattle/Arlington Northwest area. She then moved to Florida and spent the next five years in the West Palm Beach Gardens area. In her middle school years, she lived in Park City, Utah, Sun Valley, Idaho, and then Mexico. By ninth grade, she moved back to Northeastern Washington (Northport), which included Idaho and Montana. Penny has spent time throughout her life living outside of the United States.  She claimed to have been relatively shy, having moved around so much in her childhood. But she had also learned to adapt to the environment around her, grew a much stronger relationship with her sister, and have more appreciation for what it’s like to be an outsider. All the travel she has done has exposed her different experiences that have helped shape her perspectives. All of these experiences lead her to want to help others. 

Throughout her early life, there were many experiences revolving around mental health that drew Penny to work with NAMI Seattle. Penny recalls that when she was growing up, her mother suffered from schizophrenia and had been homeless for about 20 years. Her family did not have the resources to help her mother out. This is when she was introduced to NAMI Seattle, who assisted their family in understanding her mother’s mental illness. Penny took part in Family-to-Family Classes offered by the organization to better understand her mother’s illness. Her father was also a very open-hearted man, who inspired her to go out of her way to help her peers by understanding others and their personal experiences. 

After taking time after undergrad to travel internationally, Penny attended the University of Washington and graduated with her Master’s in Public Administration in 2006, launching her career in working for international focus global development organizations. Since joining NAMI Seattle in January, she has been on the board development and philanthropy committees.

As part of the board development committee, Penny helps govern and manage the board as much as possible. Due to her experience in nonprofit management, she has been able to help keep the board healthy and functioning as much as possible. As part of the philanthropy committee, Penny helps strategize ways to raise funds in support of the organization. As a whole, Penny’s general board role has been to continue to support staff and organizational goals, as well as working with the board to expand their programs to effectively support those struggling with mental health issues within the community. In the future, Penny wants to continue collaborating with other boards to expand programs to more diverse audiences. 

Throughout our talk, Penny also opened up about some of her favorite hobbies. She immediately started talking about how much she enjoys the outdoors. Some of the activities she enjoys are skiing and snowboarding, although she hasn’t been snowboarding since she suffered from an injury. Other recreational activities she is very fond of are running and camping (we learned that an active lifestyle like Penny’s helps maintain mental well being). When she’s not outdoors, Penny enjoys flipping pages through a good book and spending time with her two kids.

NAMI Seattle is lucky to have Penny on the board. Her skills and experiences in mental health are exactly what the organization needs to reach communities that are under-supported and under-funded in mental health programs. We are glad to have met her and we hope others get to meet her to say hello at the next Zoom event!

NAMI Seattle offers programs such as Family-to-Family, Peer-to-Peer, and Family & Friends, which rely on donations to thrive. Other support programs are now offered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are interested in these programs or getting involved, please visit NAMI Seattle’s get involved page for more information. 

Samuel Burley, Yeraldin Enriquez, Nathan Markley, Roewyn Umayam, and Boyue Xi are students in Professor Laura Umetsu’s Business Writing class at UW Bothell.