We were initially alerted to 30-year area resident Gail Leech-Sims doing good for others by neighbor Kevin Ferguson of 1701 Albemarle. Ahead of NAMIWalks NYC, the May 10 event Gail’s participating in to raise funds that will improve the lives of the roughly 60 million people across the US living with mental illness, we asked her about her life in the neighborhood, her interests, and why you should believe in NAMI‘s cause, too.
How long have you been living in Ditmas Park? Where were you before, and what do you enjoy about the neighborhood?
My husband Leon and I moved to the Ditmas Park area in 1984. We grew up and attended school in Park Slope, where we met when I was in kindergarten. My mother moved with her family from Virginia to Warren Street in 1938, and his parents purchased a brownstone on Prospect Place in 1959.
We enjoy this area’s tree lined blocks, multi-ethnicity, and an abundance of roomy prewar buildings. The transportation is great and we’re in walking distance to the park as well as great shopping on Flatbush Avenue.
What do you do for a living, and enjoy doing recreationally?
I work for SUNY, at the Fashion Institute of Technology‘s Office of Disability Support Services (FIT- ABLE). I enjoy aerobics at the local gym as well as walks in the park. I also enjoy eating out at many of the new neighborhood restaurants. My husband is a partner in graphics/print company and has been in the graphic industry for 35 years.
How did you learn about NAMIWalks? Is this your first time taking part?
After advised by family and friends to join a support group, I recently became a member of NAMI. I decided to join after learning that NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.
What kind of programs will a donation to your NAMIWalks campaign support?
Donations to NAMIWalks will fund no-cost support and advocacy programs for families and individuals living with mental illness. Individuals with mental illness are sometimes thought to be less intelligent and unproductive. We need more programs that emphasize the fact that with proper medication and treatment those affected with mental illness can lead normal constructive lives in our communities.