Great News for New Year!

Washingtonian magazine has named Trudy Harsh as one of its twelve Washingtonians of the Year in its current January issue.

“For 39 years, The Washingtonian has honored those who bring help and hope to the neediest among us, give at-risk children a fighting chance, enrich our educational and cultural lives, and make Washington a better place for all of us,” the magazine announced in introducing this year’s winners.

I first wrote about Trudy last year on Mother’s Day in this blog  after seeing for myself   how she was helping persons with mental disorders find supportive housing in Fairfax County, Virginia.  A  Washington D.C. suburb, Fairfax is one of the wealthiest and best-educated counties in the nation. The median household income, according to Forbes magazine, is  $106,785 and a whopping 60% of its residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The area’s wealth is one reason why finding affordable housing for persons with brain disorders is difficult. Housing doesn’t come cheap. The Washington Post reported a few years ago that a person with a mental illness could wait up to 18 years before finding supportive housing in Fairfax County.

That was simply  unacceptable to Trudy.

The reason why I joined several others in nominating her for the Washingtonian magazine’s prestigious recognition is because she decided to take action completely on her own.   A real-estate agent, Trudy began looking for an affordable house that she could buy and then offer the county to use as a group home. She created the Brain Foundation in 2003 to raise funds to buy, furnish and maintain a house for persons with brain disorders.  She held fund raisers in her backyard and when she had raised and borrowed enough money to finance a mortgage, she bought and opened her first group house in 2006.

Trudy named it Laura’s House after her daughter, Laura, who had developed a brain tumor at age eight and was never the same.

The Brain Foundation now has five houses in Fairfax that were bought with funds raised by Trudy and her supporters, such as Ted Moriak, Dotti McKee and Wilbur Dove. The county provides mental health support to the residents.

Being chosen as a Washingtonian of the Year is a big deal here.  The Washingtonian is the capital’s premier, city magazine. It chronicles the elite in politics and high society. One of the eleven other recipients is the senior U.S. Senator from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski.

I first met Trudy when I attended a Northern Virginia National Alliance on Mental Illness meeting. She impressed me because she was not someone who complained and threw her hands into the air saying, “There’s nothing we can do!”

Instead, when she saw a problem, she began solving it — one step at a time.

Recently, Trudy has been teaching other advocates in Virginia and in Florida how they can buy houses and turn them into group homes. She is encouraging others to copy the Brain Foundation formula.

If you want to learn more about the Brain Foundation or how you can help, contact Judy at  [email protected]  Make one of your New Year’s resolutions getting involved in a worthwhile cause.

Congratulations Trudy on this well deserved honor. And congratulations to others like her across our nation and the world who demonstrate every day that one person can make a difference in the lives of others.

You inspire me!

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.

Comments

  1. Wow! Congratulations to Trudy. This is quite an honor and well-deserved. Thank you for introducing us to Trudy’s story. Inspirational.

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  3. I am very proud to be associated with Trudy and The Brain Foundation. She works hard, she’s compassionate, she cares. She gets things done! Oh, BTW, The Brain Foundation just purchased its 6th house so four more men with brain disease will have a safe, affordable place to live.