Entrepreneur, Suicide Prevention Trainer, Speaker and Advocate
“Mrs. Olinda” Ricard-Hodge is an Entrepreneur, Suicide Prevention Trainer, Certified Peer Specialist-Mental Health (CPS-MH), and Certified Peer Specialist-Parent (CPS-P) who never imagined that her lived experiences would lead her to work as a member of the Lawrenceville Police Department/View Point Health’s Community Response Team.
As a child, she was taught to keep secrets, read the bible, pray about the things that caused her pain or sadness, and to “forgive and forget.” These were the only tools and coping mechanisms she had while she endured: verbal and physical abuse, childhood sexual trauma, living with a substance-abusing parent, and various forms of abuse as an adult.
It wasn’t until her 30s that she realized that her coping skills were not enough to protect her from harming herself. After years of struggling to realize lasting improvements through one-on-one counseling and medication for depression, it wasn’t until she was fully diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD and began participating in group counseling that her journey to recovery began.
“Recovery is a choice I make daily. It’s acknowledging that I have been impacted by the traumas I’ve experienced. It’s the process of taking steps to uncover, discover, and address the issues that attempt to rob me of my ability to function in my family, work, and community effectively. I believe that the recovery process is different for everyone. It’s shaped by individual experiences, strengths, coping skills, access to resources, and willingness to begin and remain active in the process. There is no set timeframe, and it may be a lifelong process that evolves and recreates itself with each new discovery or perspective gained during the journey. Recovery is not a carbon copy blueprint; it’s an original masterpiece.”
In 2006, she earned an associate degree in Culinary Arts from Nicholls State University in Louisiana as a single mother. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a Minor in Business Administration while serving a second term as the Student Government President and as a Board Member of the University of Louisiana System’s Board of Supervisors.
She moved to Georgia in 2010 to reunite with her family. In 2013 she became the co-founder of Cornerstone Track and Athletic Association, Inc., the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Life, Inc., and the Founder/Director of Sacred Families International, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization she founded out of her passion for supporting individuals and families experiencing crisis.” The organizations were abandoned in 2015 following a family tragedy.
“Mrs. Olinda” has since become very active in the mental health and addiction recovery communities. She has served as the Administrative Support Specialist and Vendor Coordinator for the Faith-Based Mental Health Initiative, as a board member for the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter, as Secretary of the Caribbean Association of Georgia’s board of directors, which took on the mission of increasing Mental Health Awareness and Support in the Caribbean Community.
She is the newly appointed Chairperson of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Rockdale Newton Chapter, an active member of the Newton Rockdale Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Georgia Advocacy Office’s (GAO): Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council and an advocate for Criminal Justice Reform.
In 2019 she relaunched her non-profit Sacred Families International Network, Inc. and is also the proud owner of Grassroots Business Consulting, LLC, an agency focused on providing administrative and technical support to small nonprofits, aspiring entrepreneurs and expanding the capacity of the Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) workforce.