Paul Doebel Award



Paul Doebel Distinguished Mental Health Service Award

Creation of Paul Doebel Distinguished Mental Health Service Award

On December 20, 2019 GROW instituted the Paul Doebel Distinguished Mental Health Service Award in recognition of Paul Doebel’s long service [41 years] to GROW and community mental health. The lifetime achievement award is for exceptional and long service to community mental health and the GROW community mental health movement.

Paul Doebel Distinguished Mental Health Service Award

GROW member and staff can nominate award recipients.  Selection of recipient[s] will be made by the GROW In America board. Announcement of the Paul Doebel Distinguished Mental Health Service Award will be made at the GROW In America Annual Meeting.

The award will be in the form of a photograph and citation on a special website. A photograph, biography, and description of the recipient’s service to GROW and community mental health will be on the website.

Paul Doebel, in his own words

My introduction and invitation to join GROW came through Clare Sprague in 1978. I had been referred to her and Con Keough cofounder of GROW by Bishop O’Rourke, Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria.  He had known me for some time. I was then a member of his Diocesan Pastoral Council.  There was a need in GROW for a person, not necessarily a GROWER, to provide administrative leadership.

The GROW program content had been developed, but as it was being introduced in the United States, the business/administrative functions needed support.  I became the only “non-grower” member of the GROW leadership structure, later joined by Barbara Merman who served as GROW’s treasurer and accountant for many years.

I recall early meetings with philanthropist Clement Stone.  Although he chose not to endow GROW directly, he encouraged us and offered assistance in establishing our own fundraising capability.  Grants from the McArthur Foundation and the Robert Woods Foundation moved us in a new direction. 

The McArthur Foundation grant funded a study by members of the University of Illinois Psychology Department, with Julian Rappaport the primary investigator. This study established the validity of the long-term benefits of the GROW program.  This provided a springboard to GROW for obtaining other performance-based grants.  It came at a time when states were moving from large centralized state mental institutions to more localized efforts.

 GROW turned to the Robert Woods Foundation for “seed money” to identify states willing to fund the establishment of the GROW program in their state, at least on an experimental basis.  Three States came forward: Illinois, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.  Rhode Island fell by the wayside after several years, leaving GROW in Illinois, GROW in New Jersey and the umbrella organization of GROW in America. 

In Illinois tax revenue fell on hard times and in the 2010s funding for GROW groups ceased.  But with volunteer help, GROW in Illinois continues as a viable organization, still awaiting changes in financial circumstances.

I was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of GROW in America, as well as the Boards of GROW in Illinois and GROW in New Jersey.  After the departure of Barbara Merman, I was elected Treasure of all three organizations.  In 2003 I received the Clare Sprague Humanitarian award in recognition of my then 25 years of service. In 2015 I retired as Chairman of the GROW boards but continued to serve as Treasurer until 2019.  I continue today as a Board member, thankful for having had the privilege of serving an organization dedicated to the betterment of humankind.

Paul Doebel, 2019


See 2020 Nominations and their GROW story in the links below.