"I think there is something special about food that helps people connect and bond. This is important event to the community of Heartwood as a whole," said Melanie Hall, Heartwood's clinical services manager, speaking to the annual celebration that is held every October. "It helps us demonstrate to clients that they matter, are important and worthy of celebration."
For Heartwood staff, the luncheon also serves as a marker; a chance to pause and think about the many clients who have successfully passed through Heartwood, and the impact of the program province-wide.
"We can sometimes underestimate the power and impact that being kind and engaging in celebration with one another can have," said Hall. "Events like the Gratitude Luncheon really highlight the importance of bringing our humanity to the work we do at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, and how it can have a lasting impact on the people we help. To me, that's a huge piece of trauma-informed care."
Here's what two clients shared about their experience at Heartwood and this year's Gratitude Luncheon:
"I am extremely grateful for women empowering women, and that's what Heartwood is all about…My take home from Heartwood will be the self-love I have gained and got back! I never thought I'd love myself again nor think I am beautiful, but with hard work and dedication to the program, it became possible. Not to mention the sisterhood at Heartwood: All the women building each other up instead of bringing each other down. I learned to use the power of words to my benefit, plus so many coping skills and mindfulness techniques and, of course, all the memories…Thank you all for helping me to save my life. I stayed in your Heartwood and now you will all stay in my heart."
"Sometimes, when you are a person with the disease of addiction, your world can become very small…To me, the opposite of addiction is connection. I really, truly feel plugged into a community here that honestly cares about my recovery, but also just about me as a person. And for that, I'm truly grateful. Heartwood has shown me that not only do I deserve an amazing life, I can have it but I know that it will a take lot of commitment, perseverance and determination on my behalf. I value the lessons I'm learning here and am working on ow I can make the actionable in my life outside of Heartwood. The most important part for me, I believe, is that I've felt included and part of a community."