Gainesville Peer Respite provides sanctuary and support to those who are experiencing or have experienced overwhelming mental /emotional distress.   We seek to create a community that supports open dialogue, empowerment, self-determination, recovery and wellness.  Our staff members have lived experiences similar to those we serve. Together we hope to create an environment that helps people transform experiences of distress into opportunities for learning and life enhancement.


Core Values

Gainesville Peer Respite wants to provide a safe environment that encourages honest and open dialogue about the effects of mental illness, substance use disorder and trauma on our communities. The values that we ascribe to are central to the consumer operated model and will be vital to creating a network of volunteers Peer support professionals and community leaders all working to advocate for change and to reduce the negative stigma associated with mental illness.

Gainesville Peer Respite Core values are

  •   Respect - recognizing that all people are different and come from different backgrounds and different experiences; having admiration and esteem for the things that make us different while embracing the things that we all share.

  • Openness - a willingness to be emotionally accessible and able to process trauma in a healthy way that builds trust in our abilities and in others.

  • Community - a group of people from similar background or circumstances who come together to share their experiences and support each other.

  • Self-Efficacy - an individual’s belief in their innate abilities to affect positive change in their own lives and the lives of others.

  • Empowerment - The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.

    Employees, volunteers, visitors and guests of the center are required to read and acknowledge their agreement to upholding these values and are expected to behave in a manner that is consistent with these values in word and deed. The Respite Center is devoted to fostering an environment where clients feel safe, respected, and heard. Our values of respect, openness, community, self-efficacy and empowerment are the foundation of our relationships with clients and the community.


Board Of Directors


Robert Hutchinson

Hutch has also served three terms on the Alachua County Commission where he has chaired the Criminal Justice, Mental Health, Substance Abuse grant committee, and pushed the effort to have all county employees receive Mental Health First Aid training. He also serves on the boards of NAMI, the Community Foundation, the Wagmore Foundation.

Hutch is the chief gravedigger at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. He co-founded the intentional community of Flamingo Hammock where he fosters dogs and plays music with the Weeds of Eden.


Lesa Holder

Lesa Holder is a life-long resident of Alachua County, and has served on the board of Gainesville Peer Respite since 2017. Prior to that, she volunteered in an administrative capacity with the start-up organization beginning in 2015. Lesa has been employed by Alachua Conservation Trust as its Office & Finance Manager for over a decade, but also provides accounting support and administrative guidance to several other local other non-profit organizations, including the Friends of Paynes Prairie and Conservation Burial, Inc., among others.

Lesa attended the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Florida, where she majored in Political Science with minors in Public Administration and Russian Studies. Her professional background in administration encompasses work in both the public and private sectors, including program development and delivery at an eco-tourist facility and organic/biodynamic demonstration farm, executive staff support posts over a wide variety of functional areas in state and local government, and as the longtime Assistant Editor for the State of Florida's official administrative law reporter.

Lesa has extensive personal experience navigating the complexities of life with mental illness, as an advocate, caretaker and peer.


Joan Scully

Joan Scully has been a member of the GPR board for three years. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Master Certified Addiction Professional who has worked in both treatment and advocacy for individuals with lived experience of mental health and substance use disorders for over 25 years.

She has held positions at the Corner Drug Store, North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, Florida Recovery Center and the University of Florida, where she helped develop and maintain innovative, solution focused, strength based interventions and programs to aid individuals in need of recovery services.

As a person in long term recovery, she has a unique capability to encourage and challenge individuals to live their best, most authentic, life.


Bill Gallagher

Bill Gallagher has been a GPR Board member since 2016. He received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of West Florida. Bill also earned a Certificate in Leadership in Public Service and Nonprofit Management from the University of West Florida.

Bill is a public administrator for the State of Florida where he has worked for over 25 years. Bill has been active in the Gainesville community for 30 years. He is active in the United Church of Gainesville and served in leadership roles of organizations including: ACLU of Florida, the University of Florida, the City of Gainesville, and other organizations. Bill was Chair of the Human Rights Board of the City of Gainesville from 2002-2004 and was a Board member since its inception in 1999.

In 1989 Bill received a leadership award from the University of Florida. In 1998, Bill received a Leadership Award from the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida. Bill is an advocate for mental health parody, mental health reform, and criminal justice reform.


Sandy Rasmussen-Carnes

Sandy was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, she has been a resident of Gainesville since 1982. Sandy graduated from the University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in Zoology. Sandy is a committed public servant who has a passion for helping others who are struggling with mental illness.

Sandy has served on the Board for the University Park Neighborhood Association and is the President of the Daughters of the King, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville which provides service to others; through the VA Fisher House, Ronald McDonald House and through pastoral care for those with both physical and mental health issues.