Monique Natividad threw her arms up in the air in celebration.
The VON Colchester East Hants, for which Natividad has been the Adult Day Program coordinator for the past six years, was just announced as the recipient for the latest contribution of the 100 Women Who Care Truro members.
Natividad and the VON were up against two competitors – the Cobequid Arts Council, which operates the Marigold Cultural Centre, and the Truro Boys and Girls Club.
Speaking to the group of women, Natividad told them about the programs she operates in Truro, Indian Brook, and Tatamagouche.
“The Adult Day clients come from all walks of life,” she said. “Several are stroke survivors, or have Parkinsons, MS, depression, anxiety, autism, or Down syndrome. But sadly, many have some degree of dementia.”
The goal, she said, is to provide clients a safe and secure environment, filling their days with “joy, laugher, and meaningful activities.”
Close relationships are formed, she said, with clients and their families.
“The caregivers really have a lot of trust in the program and in our staff. There have been many days when a daughter was bringing her dad to the program for the first time, and we witnessed what it likely looked like years earlier when that father was taking that little girl to school for the first time,” she said.
And, just like a teacher reassured that father his daughter would be fine, Natividad and the staff tell the grown children their mother or father would be just fine.
“Probably better than fine – they’ll be dancing when you come pick them up.”
But while she talked about the program itself – which is just one of many the VON offers – it may have been the correspondence from two clients’ family members that gave the VON the edge it needed to win.
Natividad read from a letter received from a client’s four daughters, and how the program has benefitted their father.
“I thought we were dad’s girls, but Monique and the program staff have become so close to his heart that he refers to them that way,” Natividad read.
She continued, saying the client had delivered groceries to seniors until he had to give it up at the age of 80. Being in the trucking industry since a teenager gave the client his identity and his independence, until he had to give that up. A husband for 50 years until their mother passed away, and he wasn’t a husband anymore.
“A life with purpose, meaning and people who care about you is everything. Our father was slowly slipping away from us before the day program. Thanks to their care, compassion and enthusiasm, and their absolute love for our dad, he has thrived,” she said.
“He has made new friends and feels like part of a community where he used to feel isolated. There are no words big enough to express our gratitude to the staff of the VON Day Program. The work they do is, without exaggeration, life changing and life giving.”
Natividad also read a letter from a mother, whose son is a client, attending two days a week for more than a year.
“He has blossomed through the love and care he has shown for the program,” said Natividad. “It is as if he is spending the day with a large extended family.”
The mother said her son looks forward to the program days, and they feel fortunate and blessed to have the program and those who offer it.
In the future, Natividad said she wants to expands the services by increasing the hours and days the program is offered.
“There is a need in this community for programming for the younger adults and we can see ourselves creating a special day program just for the 20- to 50-year-olds,” she added.
Truro Homeless Outreach Society update
While votes were being counted, members received an update from Dick Cotterill on the June recipient, the Truro Homeless Outreach Society.
“You may be aware that our society purchased a building – it was in the works during the presentation in June,” said Cotterill, adding the society took possession of the building at the end of June.
The building, while structurally sound, needed a lot of work and renovations before the homeless shelter could open, and he said the gift from the group has gone a long way toward those renovations.
“We had to put in a fire alarm system, we had to put in a fire escape, and we had to put in a barrier-free washroom. We had to renovate a lot of the electrical and plumbing features in the building. We were able to install two showers, which is a tremendous advantage as we move forward,” he said.
Having been calling the First United Church home for a period of time before purchasing the building, Cotterill said the church was a “tremendous facility and gift.”
“Now that we have our own permanent building, we look forward to being able to do more.”
The money, he said, also helped the society hire its second full-time employee, an administrative assistant.
It’s expected the homeless shelter will be open by Thanksgiving.