Denise L. Kolivoski, MBA
In November of 2009, Denise L. Kolivoski, MBA, was named Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Erie County, after previously serving on the Board of Directors for the organization. After accepting the position, Denise immediately began making several positive changes at NAMI, which included expanding the organization’s educational programming and ensuring that NAMI would operate debt-free.
Under Denise’s guidance and leadership, NAMI of Erie County’s educational programming and services have grown to unprecedented levels. The Peer-to-Peer and Family-to-Family programs offered by NAMI provide individuals and families the education, skills, and tools that they need to continue on the path to recovery. These life-changing programs, which are offered free to the public, have been well-received by many individuals and families in the community. One recent graduate stated, “I’ve learned more in 10 weeks than I have in 20 years. I’m forever grateful for this class.”
In addition, NAMI of Erie County has made great strides in the community under Denise’s leadership. The organization’s mental health presentations, which are offered to schools, businesses, and organizations at no cost, help educate individuals and families about mental health issues and eliminate the negative stigma that surrounds mental illness. During the past calendar year, NAMI of Erie County has focused on local youths and young adults, and the organization has positively impacted more than 1,000 local high school and college students with many more expected to come.
Denise has more than 10 years of experience working with local nonprofit organizations. Before she was named the Executive Director at NAMI of Erie County, Denise worked at Community Shelter Services, which is a local homeless agency, as well as the United Way of Erie County. These organizations allowed Denise to successfully represent underserved populations. Aside from her vast experience with nonprofit organizations, Denise also gained valuable experience working at Lilly Broadcasting, where she raised community-wide awareness for mental health issues right here in Erie County and helped eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental illness.
Denise is also actively involved in the community, where she currently serves on the Erie County Department of Human Services Board and the Office of Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities Board of Directors to help Erie address the most critical human service needs. In addition, she is involved in the Rotary Club of Erie as well as the Kiwanis Club of Erie, where she has served as President. Furthermore, Denise also currently serves as a member of the Erie Community Foundation Vital Signs Health Committee and the Mayor’s Roundtable on persons with disabilities.
For her work in the community, Denise has been honored with several awards. In 2009, she received a Kiwanis International Award for her work with the Barber National Institute’s Aktion Club. In 2011, Denise was recognized by the Young Erie Professionals (yep!) with a Gen-E Leadership Award. In 2014, Denise was recognized as one of the Erie Reader’s “40 under 40” and was a finalist for the Women’s Roundtable annual “Woman of the Year” award.
In 2016, under Denise’s leadership, NAMI won recognition from The Nonprofit Partnership, earned two awards from the Northwest Pennsylvania Advertising Federation of NWPA, and won two Telly awards, which recognize film and video production. Each of these honors was attributed to the marketing of NAMI’s mission.
Along with her vast experience, Denise’s educational background also demonstrates her deep ties to the Erie community. In 2008, she graduated from Gannon University with a Master of Business Administration degree. Denise holds an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree from Gannon University as well. In 2021, Denise was awarded Gannon University’s highest honor, Distinguished Alumni.
With a strong commitment to the organization’s future success, Denise has shown she is firmly dedicated to NAMI of Erie County’s mission. “It is an honor to represent the organization,” Denise said. “I hope to increase the awareness of mental illness in the community as well as combat the stigma that exists for individuals and families facing the challenges of mental illness. At NAMI of Erie County, we believe that empowering both the individual and family through education will improve the quality of life of everyone and make recovery an attainable goal.”