Introducing Community Conference Coordinator Tabitha Benci DeRango

Commuinity Conference Coordinator

Two of the largest conferences that JFCS co-sponsors are the Annual Conference on Mental Health (held each fall) and Conference for Caregivers (held in spring every other year). Tabitha Benci DeRango, who was recently hired as the JFCS Community Conference Coordinator, is in charge of organizing both these events. She recently spoke about why this position appealed to her, and how the pandemic is impacting mental health.

What about the Conference Coordinator position appealed to you?

In the interview process, I gleaned knowledge of the work culture here at JFCS. Encompassing needs for collaborative, inclusive work practices and mindfulness about work/life balance. As well as the importance of diversity and an invitation to open minded, innovative thinkers. This resonates with my life journey and work ethic.

I have a background in community engagement organizing, teaching, community event planning and place-making to name a few. I have had the opportunities to work with all age groups in diverse neighborhoods and in various areas that strengthen communities, add advocacy, assist planning, and grow vibrancy. My experience as an ongoing caregiver and mother along with strong ties to mental health are part of my story. Planning these conferences with community members allows me to utilize my skillsets while also allowing for personal and professional growth within a well-respected agency.

May is Mental Health Month – why is this topic especially important now?

The issue of mental health – while always important – has taken on another level as the global population struggles to navigate the complexities of Covid-19. Anxiety, fear, disorientation and depression over lack of clear consistencies is ailing us all in different ways and we are having to face and experience feelings that may be foreign to us. This allows for a minor insight to the plight of mental health and its impact on everyone.

How do you see both mental health services and adult caregiving adapting in the months and years ahead?

Colleagues have continually expressed the positive impact that the Mental Health Education Conference and the “Keeping the Spirit Alive” Caregiver Conference have had on local communities as well as national organizations. The conferences provide a venue for destigmatizing, recognizing challenges, sharing resources and supportive environments. All of which are successful attributes and goals for these events and why they will continue to be a valuable resource in the community for years to come.

The 20th Annual Conference on Mental Health, “Inviting Positivity in Uncertain Times,” will be held on Sunday, Oct. 18. The keynoter will be KARE 11 producer and former anchor Bryan Piatt, who will share his story, of living with OCD and anxiety, and creating a work and life balance. For more information contact Tabitha at tderango@jfcsmpls.org or 952-417-2107.