Marlee Foundation helps add full-time counselor to county schools

The Marlee Sutton Foundation received $3,000 from Ascend Care for their efforts in preventing suicide and self-harm among Lawrence County students. Brian Turbyfill, with Ascend Care, presented the MSF Board with a check on Aug. 8 and helped them reach their first goal of adding a full-time mental health counselor for county schools. Pictured from the left are MSF members Tina Bogan, Donna Flanagan, Scott and Wendy Norwood, Ascend Care’s Turbyfill, and MSF members Mylan Mitchell, Mark Craig and Casey Reed. Not pictured is MSF member Kirk Jackson.

The Lawrence County School System is adding one full-time mental health counselor to its staff this October, thanks to the efforts of the Marlee Sutton Foundation.

The non-profit MSF, which was founded by Scott and Wendy Norwood in memory of their daughter Marlee, raised $21,000 in less than a year of fundraising. The Lawrence Board of Education matched the funds to provide a total of $42,000 to fully fund a full-time mental health counselor, according to the Norwoods. 

MSF was founded in January; almost a year after Marlee Sutton took her own life. Wendy Norwood said the foundation was formed to take her family’s brokenness and raise awareness within the rest of the community. 

One of the foundation’s short-term goals was to raise enough funds to employ a full-time mental health counselor for the county’s school system. 

After nearly a year of fundraising, the match from the Board of Education, and a $3,000 check from Ascend Care—an outreach program that supports causes like MSF—the Norwoods are watching their goals become reality. 

“There was not a lot of funding available at the time, so we just started doing something,” Wendy Norwood said. 

She said the full-time counselor will be an additional resource to help students navigate situations that parents may not be aware of or understand. 

The new counselor will create further opportunities for children who need to speak with someone on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, Lawrence County Schools’ social worker, Alle Kitchens, told WHNT news earlier this week.  The counselor will be available to discuss issues the child may be facing at school or at home.

She said the new counselor is training and should be within the school system by the end of October.

The MSF board, which is made up of local volunteers including Tina Bogan, Donna Flanagan, Mylan Mitchell, Mark Craig, Casey Reed and Kirk Jackson, helped plan several fundraising events to meet their goal. The foundation hosted a New Year’s Eve Gala, sold tee shirts and MSF merchandise, held a golf tournament and a mud run.

MSF plans to make several of these fundraising efforts annual events to meet their next goal—providing one full-time counselor for each of the schools in Lawrence County.

“Our focus currently is the Lawrence County School System,” Wendy Norwood said earlier this year. “As we grow, our area may grow.”

She said the foundation has at least two more events planned this year, including MSF’s second consecutive New Year’s Eve Gala and an Alabama Blues Brothers concert.

The foundation has a few more seats to fill for the Blues Brothers concert on Nov. 2, she added. The event is happening at the Princess Theatre in Decatur from 7 to 9:30 p.m. that Saturday.

Available tickets can be purchased online at princesstheatre.org and cost $25 for floor seating or $20 for the balcony.

MSF merchandise may also be purchased at Mel’s Steakhouse in Moulton or at Lawrence County High School’s home football game on Friday, Oct. 18.

Proceeds from fundraisers and sales purchases help continue the foundation’s efforts, the Norwoods said. For more information, visit the Marlee Sutton Foundation Facebook page, or go to their website at marleesuttonfoundation.org.

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