Volunteer Spotlight - Lea Ann Hirsch

“No one chooses to have a mental illness,” says Lea Ann, sales coordinator on the Kroger Team for Mission Foods and GCB volunteer.  “It’s so much more than, ‘oh, you’ll get over it.’”

Lea Ann first learned of GCB through her employer, who is a sponsor of the annual Champions of Hope gala.  “I went to the event last year, and was really moved by the client who gave a testimonial.  It’s an issue that is personal to me, so I wanted to get more engaged.”

Lea Ann recalled her experience with post-partum depression after giving birth to her son, 18 years ago.  “No one talked about going through that, at least they didn’t back then.  The sentiment was, ‘just suck it up and you’ll feel better.’”   In Lea Ann’s experience, the effects of post-partum never completely went away. 

“I started to develop a pattern of mood swings,” she says – “I could clean and spend money with an intensity one day, and then crash the next - and not have any idea why.”  Her primary doctor recognized the behavior as manic, and connected her with a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar II disorder.  Through several more years of different practitioners and medication trial and error, Lea Ann’s condition was stabilized, and today she is doing well.

She had just made an intentional decision to find fulfilling volunteer work when the email from GCB showed up in her inbox, asking for Champions of Hope volunteer committee members. “I don’t believe in accidents,” she laughs. “The timing was just too perfect. I’m happy to have the opportunity to donate my time to an organization that is doing so much for people living with mental illness.”