‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all was planned. Some elves from the Miller Centre gathered, to lend a helping hand. Christmas gift bags were stuffed by staff who cared. The goal? To help people! Happiness would be shared!
For the past three years, it has become a tradition for the Environmental Services team from the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre to come together and make good things happen during the holiday season for clients of the Gathering Place.
A service centre located in St. John’s, the Gathering Place serves some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“It all started in 2014 – we raised money throughout the year to donate to a good cause – we just didn’t know which cause,” says domestic worker Leonard Tobin. “I remembered a friend who would volunteer and serve tea up to those at the Gathering Place. At that point, we didn’t really know much about the centre, but we made our donation – and were offered a tour of the facility.”
“The tour really opened my eyes,” says domestic worker Doreen Andrews. “We don’t have a lot, but there are far more people who need a lot more than we do. Just to help somebody in need is really rewarding . . . good for your soul.”
The Gathering Place works to build community and promote equality for their clients, but more importantly, they provide nourishment and other support for people aged 25 and older, who are homeless or live in less than desirable housing conditions. Some of the services the guests can avail of include: a noon meal program, social activities, access to showers, laundry services and a clothing supply boutique.
Clients can include those who are often unemployed and those who do not have adequate social supports. Many have complex physical, mental and social difficulties.
In the winter months, an average of 200 people come through the doors each day – people who are hungry, isolated and lonely.
“It does my heart good to know I could help someone else,” says Furness Peach, a member of the Environmental Services team. “I look forward to doing it as long as I can.”
Domestic Worker Loretta Steele echoes that sentiment: “I’m a busy mom and I don’t have time to do a lot of community work. I was really impressed with what the Gathering Place offered and it made me want to give back even more.”
On December 6, the team met at the Gathering Place, and using the money from their fundraisers, prepared 60 gift bags as a surprise for guests of the centre. Many were items we often take for granted like hats, gloves, tooth paste and shampoo. This year one staff member even knit 60 pairs of socks!
With extra fundraising money left this year, they were able to purchase other items like clothes detergent and fabric softener for the laundry room.
“I am so proud of them and I love being involved,” says Jody O’Brien, support services supervisor. “I believe it’s a worthy cause and the fact that it’s a Christmas event really appeals to me. I can just imagine the smiles on people’s faces when they come for a hot meal and receive an unexpected gift bag.”
The team consists of full time and casual workers. They don’t necessarily work together every day, but it’s tradition for them to gather in the lunch room during break time. You’ll hear stories, jokes, laughter and if you’re lucky you’ll will get to sample some of Leonard’s homemade carrot cake or Loretta’s frozen cheesecake!
“I started to help because Leonard promised me snowballs,” laughs casual Domestic Worker Jerome Corcoran. “He’s a good baker!” On a serious note, he says, “It makes me happy to help others. It’s a good thing to do.”
They also have a ‘Morale Tree’ located in their lunch room that stays up all year round and is decorated for special occasions. “It brings us to together as a team,” says Loretta.
“Everyone gets involved and wants to support or help any way they can,” adds Leonard. “Just this past summer, we hosted a barbeque to raise money to help the Gathering Place. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of everyone involved, like Paul Hanrahan, a recreation/development specialist, who volunteered to barbeque, and sponsors who donated food items and anyone who came out to help and support. It just goes to show how a small group of people can make a difference.” ■
This story was written by Angela Lawrence, manager of graphic design services, Corporate Communications.