National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Harmony Kingdom House of Peers
by Nicola Harris
On a Saturday afternoon, a small group of friends and neighbors gather together. United by a common passion, they share stories, swap ideas, and discuss their upcoming convention with excitement. The purpose of this meeting is to educate and support the attendees and to serve as a point of contact for people who share similar interests and hobbies.
Sound like a NAMI affiliate meeting? It could be, but it is actually an official club meeting for Harmony Kingdom (HK) enthusiasts.
While NAMI members are united by a passion for mental healthcare, HK club members are united by a passion for HK artistic creations—unique wooden figurines, handmade of crushed marble and resin in the tradition of the English cottage industry.
Throughout the country, independent groups of HK aficionados meet regularly to socialize, trade pieces, and organize HK events. Delegates from the 17 local collector clubs form a council called the House of Peers.
What brings HK and NAMI together (besides, of course, a passion for their cause)? Each year the activities of the HK House of Peers, including a portion of proceeds and revenues from auction events, generate thousands of dollars in donations to NAMI, providing NAMI with the support we need to do what we do best—provide advocacy, education, and support for people affected by mental illness. This year the annual meeting’s auction resulted in over $16,000, and lifetime donations from the HK House of Peers have exceeded $80,000.
Since their foundation ten years ago, HK has had a rich tradition of giving back to the community. Raising money for charities is a “way to be more than just a social group,” said Leanna Barron, President of the House of Peers. “We are so lucky to be able to enjoy these little figurines we should be able to help people, too. It makes it more fun!”
Their first action as an organization was to raise funds for the American Red Cross. They donated funds to aid in flood relief efforts in Oklahoma. This year their collectors have donated $30,000 to organizations such as NAMI, children’s hospitals, and orphanages.
How do they do it? Each year the House of Peers organizes a five-day national convention in which members from around the country come to participate in games, auctions, and raffles. All the profits from the convention go to charities, with NAMI receiving the largest portion. Throughout the year the House of Peers also auctions HK figurines on eBay. Again, a large percentage of the profits from the auctions are donated to NAMI.
Why NAMI? The co-founder of HK, Lisa Yashon, has a personal connection to NAMI and the cause. While she was a young adult, Lisa’s brother developed schizophrenia. Lisa was devastated as she saw her brother’s life change and his dreams halted. The experience taught her that mental illness can strike anyone.
Although the lives of Lisa’s family changed with her brother’s diagnosis, she also discovered great blessings in the midst of adversity and believes that her love for her brother and determination to help him contributed to her success. As a result, Lisa decided that a certain portion of all HK profits would be donated to NAMI.
Following Lisa’s lead, HK club members “just really believe in what we’re doing,” said Leanna Barron. “We get so much opportunity…but people also give back.” It seems that beyond their passion for Harmony Kingdom figurines, a passion for giving is at the very core of the HK House of Peers.