A small gesture of giving can make a huge difference to those we care for this season. You can help make the holidays a bit more merry and bright for long-stay clients in tertiary mental health and substance use (MHSU) system who have severe mental illness by supporting the Giving Tree campaign.
"The holiday season can be a stressful time and full of challenges for clients and their families," says Patrizia Armitage, recreation therapist with MHSU, who has taken the lead in creating a more welcoming, home like environment for the clients in Willow Pavilion. "Our clients can be with us up to two years. This is their home and we try to make the season special for them, no matter how they celebrate. This time is often difficult for people and if we can make it better, we feel we've made a difference."
The campaign began last year when the traditional fundraisers of bake sales and cash donations weren't possible due to the pandemic. Visitors can drop by the gift shop and choose a tag from one of the three trees on display, which lists the name of the recipients and what they'd like from the gift shop, and the gift will be delivered to the resident.
There are about 120 residents, who range in age from 18 to 99 years old, that MHSU staff are hoping will receive gifts this year so that everyone has at least one present under the tree. One of last year's recipients says, "It was such a surprise, I had a gift for Christmas. I never expected it. It made me happy that people thought of me."
Besides bringing some joy to those in need, MHSU and Gift Shop staff and volunteers hope that the Giving Tree campaign will also help raise awareness around tertiary mental health services at VCH, which provide specialized care to meet the needs of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness who haven't been successfully treated by other programs.
"Last year this really made the holiday season a little brighter and to bring joy to people who often don't get a lot," Patrizia says. "So often they're just asking for the simplest of things like socks and bath products. Part of it is the nostalgia of what they received as children and we're trying to recreate as much of that as possible for them."
For those who can't drop by the gift shop in person, staff and well wishers from the public can donate online https://join.vghfoundation.ca/fundraiser/3580684 , and the MHSU team will make a purchase on your behalf. You can also call the gift shop at 604-875-5895 or email them at email@example.com and they'll pick your items for you.
Thank you for helping to bring some holiday cheer to those in our care.