This month a St. Croix Valley nonprofit celebrates five decades of helping people who struggle with mental health issues and addiction.

Canvas Health hosted the 11th annual Valley Vine and Harvest Throwdown 4-7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center, located at 3712 Layton Ave. N. in Lake Elmo.

All event proceeds supported Canvas Health programs and services that help people struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, unstable housing and trauma.

Canvas Health CEO Matt Eastwood said the organization will continue to meet the needs of the community for the next 50 years.

“Canvas Health’s legacy is a testament to the profound healing that can happen through compassionate care,” Eastwood said.

At the Oct. 13 celebration, six St. Croix Valley chefs prepared mini entrées for guests that paid tribute to each decade Canvas Health has served the community from the 1960s to 2010s.

The chefs include: Robby Anderson of Domacin Restaurant and Wine Bar; Angela Verrastro of Angelina’s Kitchen; Jed Swope of Danny’s Bar & Grill; Mike Willenbring of Manger Restaurant and Wine Bar; Luke Sawtell of Pedro’s del Este; and Therese Molloy of Rivertown Inn.

The evening will also feature speaker Dick Beardsley, a legendary Minnesotan marathon runner.

Julia Yach, Canvas Health marketing and development director, said each chef picked a dish from their assigned decade to recreate or put their own spin on. The guests sampled each dish and vote on the best one, she said. Canvas Health staff will crown the winning cook Chef of the Valley, Yach added.

“To celebrate that, we wanted to feature each decade that we’ve been serving people in the community,” Yach said.

In 1969, a group of concerned citizens came together to form Human Services, Inc., the community mental health agency now known as Canvas Health. The formation of the organization came six years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, which designated federal funding for community mental health centers.

Human Services, Inc. established chemical dependency offices in Stillwater in 1971. In 1980, the organization moved the offices to new headquarters in Oakdale on land donated by locals Jim and Mitzi Olson.

In 1991, Human Services, Inc. established a program with on-site staff at each school district to provide services for children dealing with mental health issues. In 2005, the Home Free housing project to help young adults with mental illness opened in Stillwater. The organization officially changed its name to Canvas Health in 2012.

Today, Canvas Health has seven clinics across the metro-area in Stillwater, Oakdale, Forest Lake, Cottage Grove, Bloomington, Coon Rapids and North Branch. The nonprofit also has mobile crisis centers in several other counties, Yach said.

“We actually go out to a person’s home or place of business — wherever the person is having that crisis,” Yach said.

Overall, Yach said Canvas Health offers programs for people of all ages who otherwise may not have access to health care or programs. The nonprofit also offers mental health services in local schools, programs that continue to grow, she said.

“It’s acting as a safety net for people in the community who need help,” Yach said. “We’re able to help those people and get them on another path to healing.”

Yach added Canvas Health has started programs that were not previously available in the St. Croix Valley.

“Our biggest impact is really meeting the needs of the community, responding to needs with programs,” she said.

Contact Kim Schneider at

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