Foundation 45 hosted a water balloon fight as a fundraiser earlier this year.EXPAND
Foundation 45 hosted a water balloon fight as a fundraiser earlier this year.
Brian Maschino

Foundation 45's New President is Prepared to Expand Program Beyond DFW

Foundation 45, an organization aimed at supporting people with mental illness, was born from sincere need.

Founder Anthony Delabano lost some of his closest friends to suicide and found himself struggling to find help that spoke to him. It’s been about a year since the Foundation received its 501(c)(3) status and now its founder is stepping down, just as the foundation begins its first major expansion since forming.

“When [Foundation 45] came to fruition back in, I believe it was 2014, there was one group,” Lauren O’Connor, Foundation 45’s new president, says. “It was really just trying to get our presence in Deep Ellum.”

Establish a presence they did. Since its inception, some of the foundation’s groups have doubled in attendance, O’Connor says. Currently Foundation 45 hosts three group therapy sessions per week (see below for times and locations), two of them in Deep Ellum. The foundation’s current plan is to set up two more groups, one in Fort Worth by the end of 2018 and one in Denton scheduled to be ready by mid-2019.

“We should actually have [the Fort Worth group] set up by December, and then starting next year [we’ll work on finding] a location and counselors for Denton,” O’Connor says. “We’re really expanding outside of the Deep Ellum community, which is great because most of the people who come to our groups do not live in Dallas. They’re driving 20-30 miles away, so us being able to have the closer group to some people is going to make things so much easier.”

Additionally, Foundation 45 will start making inroads in Arlington at Division Brewing's Wadestock 2018 on Sept. 22. The event, named after Division founder Wade Wadlington, will include local acts Henry the Archer and Kyoto Lo-Fi. Proceeds will go to Foundation 45, although O’Connor says their involvement in the event was unknown to her until it was announced by Division. Things like that have happened to Foundation 45 periodically. Though it’s not surprising to hear the foundation is garnering local support from beyond the immediate purview of DFW.

“It was a surprise to us to be honest; they actually chose our organization because a lot of the bands that will be playing know us pretty well,” she says. “Having the support from Wade is really, really important and so sweet of him to think of us, especially since we don’t have any big events going on for this year. Anything is going to help, so we definitely appreciate that.”

O’Conner took the foundation’s reins shortly after this year’s Water Balloon Wars event. She says Delabano passed her the torch to focus on family and work obligations. Having eight years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she has led the charge for the foundation’s current expansion right out of the gate. Wadestock is an opening salvo in the foundation’s attempt to grow.

Big events are becoming less of a priority for the Foundation. As a part of this transition, O’Connor says the foundation will look to focus on coordinating with the mental health community. She says organizations such as Mental Health America of Greater Dallas are likely unaware of the progress the foundation has made in supplying mental health services to people in need.

“We’re reaching out to a brand new audience; a lot of Arlington doesn’t know who we are and a lot of people are just going to Division Brewing to check out the bands. And when they hear about our mission, we might be able to bring more folks to [our groups],” O’Connor says. “It’s definitely going to clear a path and start the conversation of working into Fort Worth and working into Denton and some of these other areas that really need the support right now.”

Foundation 45 also took part in North Texas Giving Day on Sept. 20. The event was designed to help raise awareness for charitable organizations in Dallas, which is just what Foundation 45 needs as it attempts to expand past its bastions in Deep Ellum and Oak Cliff.

“The last three months I can’t tell you how many people have come up and said you saved my life, your group saved my life, your counselors have saved our lives, so our message is working, what we’re doing is working,” O’Connor says.

Foundation 45 holds meetings at the following locations and times: Deep Ellum, (One on Sunday, One on Monday) Sunday at 2 p.m. Monday at 7 p.m. Common Desk 2919 Commerce St.  Bishop Arts, Thursday at 7 p.m. Common Desk 633 W Davis St.

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