Nancy Chase

nancy chase

Board Chair, 1998

Nancy Chase was a young mother and member of Las Aletas, an auxiliary of the Assistance League, when she was first introduced to the Mental Wellness Center, known at that time as the Mental Health Association. Nancy had a family member with a mental health diagnosis and was particularly interested in serving this community.

Each month, Nancy and others would visit with women at the Mental Health Association’s Fellowship Club, to take an outing, do a craft or socialize, at the original small house on Chapala Street.

“It was rewarding for us to spend time with these women,” recalled Nancy. “There were maybe five to ten women so it was very different from today’s much larger Fellowship Club which offers socialization and rehabilitation programs to men and women with various mental health needs.”

Nancy’s involvement with the Mental Health Center increased in the ensuing years, and she was named board president in 2002 through 2004.

On the board, Nancy served on many committees, but is best known as a champion of the education committee, using her skills as an elementary school teacher to encourage the creation of a mental health program for youth. Nancy worked closely with a team to develop “Mental Health Matters,” a curriculum designed to introduce basic knowledge of mental health and wellness to elementary and currently middle and high school students. It started in 2000 spearheaded by retired school nurse and former MHA board member, Dorothy Lewolt, who firmly believed that 6th grade before transition to junior high was the appropriate time to present general mental health information.

The Mental Wellness Center engaged the help of Christy Morse, a sixth-grade teacher who created the original curriculum. It took some time to get the curriculum implemented as many teachers were not familiar with the subject matter or felt uncomfortable presenting the material. Then along came new MWC Board Member Ann Lippincott, Associate Director of the Teacher Education Program at UCSB. The curriculum was updated to the current Mental Health Matters. A qualified team of volunteers were trained to teach in the classrooms. In 2008 Ann and Nancy taught the MHM unit in one sixth-grade classroom. As of 2022 Mental Health Matters grew to teach one hundred classrooms, reaching over 3000 students throughout Santa Barbara County. Students learn the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, the importance of destigmatizing mental illness and self-care wellness practices.

“I’m so proud of the work that has been done to make children understand that mental health disorders are no one’s fault and there is help,” said Nancy. “By reducing stigma, we are giving status to people who were shunned and disregarded for so long.”

Nancy knows how to make people feel valued. After graduating from UCSB, Nancy taught elementary school, and after raising four children of her own, she began teaching private music lessons through Santa Barbara Symphony’s Music Education programs. Nancy played double bass for 58 years in the Symphony and it was in fact as a freshman, in 1953, that she performed in a concert with local musicians that marked the beginning of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra.

One of the things that Nancy said she does best is being a tireless cheerleader for the Mental Wellness Center. She was on the board and behind the big leap to move from Chapala Street to the Garden Street headquarters, serving as President during the “Building Hope” campaign to raise funds supporting the new facility and programs.

“While I no longer take part in the classroom presentations, I continue to serve on the Education Committee and proudly cheer and shake my pom poms whenever I can,” she said.