Karel deVeer

Board of directors, 2007-2011, 2016-2021
Treasurer, 2008-2011, 2019-2020, and Co-treasurer, 2021

Karel has two women in his life to thank for inspiring his journey to the Mental Wellness Center. The first is his wife of 45 years, Jane Macedo de Veer, who served on the Mental Wellness Center board and recommended the rewarding service to Karel.

The second was his mother, who Karel said instilled in him at a young age, the importance of giving back.

“My mother’s whole life was devoted to helping people,” recalled Karel. “Some of my earliest memories are of her sending clothes to Indian reservations, and I remember traveling with her to Mexico where she volunteered, taking supplies and clothing to those in need.”

His mother’s big-heartedness had a tremendous influence on Karel, who served in the military, moving around until he eventually graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He got his degree in psychology and spent several years teaching at UCSB before establishing his career as a property manager.

His background in psychology and skills in business would come in handy, as Karel served two terms on the Mental Wellness Center board, first from 2007-20011 and later from 2016-2021. His business acumen was especially helpful during Karel’s time as treasurer and co-treasurer on the board.

Karel remembers clearly the financial challenges that faced the organization, especially over contracts related to the new building, which is now the Garden Street headquarters. “I was very involved with the building and financing the construction of our new center and it was an incredibly long and chaotic period, but the end reward was so worth the challenges we faced,” he said.

Karel’s strongest recollections are of how far the organization has come from those early days in that tiny space on Chapala Street, which he said could only seat about 15 people and even that was tight. “To see the arc of where we started to where we are now is amazing,” he said. “It felt like a fairy tale to conceive of this expanded new space, and I’m so proud to have been part of that dream.”

Karel’s involvement at the Mental Wellness Center brought him back to the pathway of service that was ingrained in him from a young age. And it’s the people whom he has met along the way that kept him engaged.

“The people involved in this type of volunteer work have a mindset and desire to help others,” he said. “Nobody is looking to improve their own life, but everyone here is dedicated to improving the lives of other people. It’s such a wonderful environment.”

They cycle of charitable work continues for the de Veers. Karel and Jane have instilled the importance of giving back to their two daughters, each of whom works in arenas where they are of service to others.