Gifts from the Heart: Thanking our Community

“Giving of any kind…taking an action…begins the process of change,
and moves us to remember that we are part of a much greater universe.” Mbali Creazzo

For our last few blogs, we’ve shared stories through our volunteers and "My Volunteer Story" submissions. We will continue sharing these personal volunteer stories, but for this blog, we’d like to reflect on, and express our appreciation and deep gratitude for other ways staff and the community give to the Volunteer Program and the patients at Ontario Shores.

Many volunteer organizations and programs rely on the generosity and kind donations of the community to keep their programs running. Here at Ontario Shores, we rely on donations of books, magazines and puzzles to keep our Drop-In Centre stocked with reading material for patients. Our Good Luck Clothing Shop is entirely stocked by staff and community donations of gently used and new clothing, and winter coats for our annual Winter Coat Drive. We receive many of these donations continually throughout the year, but it is during the holiday season that we really see the gift of giving; and this holiday season was no different.

We are very lucky to have strong relationships with several community organizations that annually donate items to patients, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank those organizations for their generosity and deep sense of compassion for our patients.

Whitby Baptist Church and Kindred Hearts Quilters Guild
Whitby Baptist Church first started collecting items and donating gift bags (100) in 1998 after a hospital Chaplain mentioned that patients were often alone during the holiday season – some with little or no family contact.  Members of the church wanted to do something to show patients they are not alone, or forgotten, and thought the gift bags were a small act of kindness they could provide.

Since then, members of Whitby Baptist Church have been donating holiday gift bags filled with toiletries for inpatients to open on Christmas morning. Originally the gift bags were stamped paper bags, then clear plastic bags, until one year several of the Church women thought that cloth bags would be more useful. Today, the gift bags are handmade by the Kindred Hearts Quilters Guild, with each bag containing soap, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth and a small shampoo/body wash.

This incredible donation is an organized event that starts in January, with the leadership of Church members Noonie Hutcheson and Brad Lockner, to ensure that the 300 plus gift bags are ready the following year. “Doing this for the patients means a lot to members of the Church,” says Noonie. “Ontario Shores is part of our community and always has been. It is a small act of kindness to let them know that no matter what situation they are in, they are loved.”

A heartfelt thank you goes out to this group for its thoughtful and generous donation. This year, we also extend our appreciation to The Refuge for donating items for the gift bags, and several local dentists who contributed toothpaste and toothbrushes. 
Durham Warm Water Aquatic Program
We also extend a special thank you to the Durham Warm Water Aquatic Program (DWWAP) for collecting and donating new and gently used clothing, toiletries and gifts, for the fifteenth consecutive year. The DWWAP is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to providing gentle warm water exercise programs to people challenged by muscle-skeletal disabilities (e.g. arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain). DWWAP has been renting our warm water pool since the building opened in 1996, and each week there are over 300 participants in the program.

Joy Higgins, President of DWWAP, instructor and previous participant, says that donating items each year is a way to give back to the patients for the opportunity to use the pool. “Many of the participants cannot exercise anywhere else,” says Joy. “Many of us are in constant pain and being in the water allows us to move and get back a little of the life we had before.” The pain that many of these participants feel is unseen and hard to recognize – just like mental illness. “We have to learn to cope with it, just like patients [at Ontario Shores] have to learn to cope with their illness.”

Used clothing donations support the Good Luck Clothing Shop, while the rest of the gifts, toiletries and new clothing allow Volunteer Services to keep a small supply of much needed items on hand for patient needs throughout the year.

The holidays are a busy time and we and often feel overwhelmed with our own needs and busy schedules, yet these groups have taken the time to think of others.  Whitby Baptist Church and DWWAP are just two of the many community organizations who have supported Ontario Shores over the years. We are also very thankful for the generosity of Brooklin Untied Church, St. Marten’s Anglican Church, Laureate Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, Daughters of Isabella, and all other individuals and organizations who have donated.

Thank you for your generosity, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.