GET A CONFIDENCE BOOST AT JANUARY CULTURE CHATDecember 19, 2023
2023 HIGHLIGHTS: IN-PERSON RETURNS, LISTENING SESSION DEBUTS, NETWORKING IGNITESDecember 19, 2023
The DLE constantly refreshes its vibrancy by continuously welcoming new members from diverse industries, companies, and locations.
One of our newest members is entrepreneur Luke Fitzgerald, founder of Pittsfield (MA)-based The Love of T Foundation. “I always wanted to start a business and make a difference, but I never really knew why,” shares Luke.
That purpose became crystal clear when Luke lost his beloved mother, Teresa, to suicide. “It was a total shock moment and the biggest test of my life,” he reflects.
Motivated by the realization that an adequate behavioral health system could have helped his mom from this tragedy, Luke started a non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of providing access to behavioral healthcare services while building relationships and stimulating conversations on how to promote systemic change. The T in the organization’s name honors his mother, Teresa or T, as she was so lovingly known as.
Luke readily admits that his own mental health struggles also shaped his vision of becoming an entrepreneur. As a child, he struggled with depression. As a teenager and into his twenties, he fell into a negative spiral of using drugs for social connection and self-medication. Eventually, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Personal fortitude soon took over, and with the help of peer connection, Luke was able to turn his life around and dive into a full recovery. “I knew in my soul that I needed to be strong, and I needed to show people how important mental health is and how short our system falls,” he admits.
Adversities inspired a call to action to help people in his hometown community who have faced similar experiences. Luke earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Berkshire Community College and became a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. He expanded his perspective and gained hands-on experience working for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s office, The Brien Center, and most recently, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, where he is a case manager focused on community outreach and specializing in working directly with the opiate crisis.
Established in August 2021 as a non-profit, Love of T provides no-cost peer support services with two certified peer specialists. Group and individual sessions are offered in a safe, supportive setting at Billy J’s Elm St. Java in downtown Pittsfield on Monday evenings. A seven-member board of directors assists Luke in operational practices and direction.
Even in its infancy, the organization has been making a difference. Luke cites that a close friend reached out for help while visiting from out of town. Guided to the Love of T drop-in center, the friend received peer support and eventually was able to see the situation more clearly. “Right then, I was able to see the direct impact I am making through Love of T,” he proudly states.
Looking ahead to 2024, Luke hopes to build community awareness of his organization and donor support. Working with the foundation’s Managing Director Serena Johnson, he strives to expand to four full-time, paid outreach staff who can assist those struggling with suicidal ideation, in a person-centric, trauma-informed way. For his own personal recovery, Luke stresses, “Diet is much more than what you eat. It’s what you allow into your life, who you allow into your space, and who you give your time and energy to.”
By surrounding himself with positive influences and openly talking about his experiences, Luke maintains his energy and drive to remain on the right path and stay true to his mission of helping others. Grit, determination, and the ability to sit with the “uncomfortable stuff” have proven invaluable tools for his recovery. “Consistency is important as well. It is key when practicing self-care activities, such as meditation,” he says.