May 28th, 2024

December to remember those in need


By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 14, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Batman - aka Ken MacDonald - of Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports, holds a donate toy in a donation bin.

Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports are doing their part to make sure this month is indeed a December To Remember for the city’s vulnerable.

The local group which started about five months ago had members at three different locations on Sunday for their December To Remember big toy/gift/food drive campaign with set ups at Toys R Us Lethbridge (gain toys), Sobey’s Uplands (gain food for Christmas baskets and Nana’s Pantry initiative for food support for the community) and Canadian Tire North (gifts and toys).

“Just by looking at the pictures taken, there are hundreds of dollars’ worth of toys, food and regular gifts from group home youths, the ones who are older,” said Kathleen Lacombe – aka Phoenix – development coordinator as well as the treasurer for Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports, adding nearly $1,000 in monetary donations was also raised. “It was cold and there were a lot of other things going on that day. Our initiative went very well. The community of Lethbridge is amazing for showing up and just being there for their own community. But if anyone still wants to donate, we’re taking items until Dec. 18.”

Those still wishing to donate can reach out to Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports on Facebook or at riseabovelethbridge@gmail.com

Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports is new to the community

“We used to be part of other groups,” said Lacombe. “We started our own because we were really passionate about mental health and helping our community in all aspects instead of just a certain type.”

When Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports was being formed, Lacombe said they knew they were going to do a Christmas give back.

“We had done them before and we’ve seen what it does for somebody, what it grows inside them. That is really about mental health, because when someone is lonely, doesn’t have family and someone is wondering why they don’t have Christmas, they’re hurting and sad and their mental health is down. When we do this, we’re just building somebody up. We’re giving them a bit of ‘up’ before the New Year begins. That’s the main goal here, just to create a space where they feel good about themselves and they can see that someone cares and it was people from their own community. That was the main thing about creating December To Remember. We’ll be doing it every year. We work alongside these group home youths all year long. So it’s easy to know they are alone and they do need us. It’s just the right thing to do at the end of the day.”

The December to Remember initiative will continue Dec. 19 when Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports, alongside volunteers and Bill Ginter from the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen – acting as Santa – give over 40 group home youth from YWCA Hestia Homes, Wood’s Homes as well as some families in the community a Christmas to remember.

The hope is to have Gentle Giant Acres provide a horse and carriage for the event.

“We’re going to take our vehicles and this horse and carriage and Santa and we’re going to drive to Wood’s Homes and we’re going to drop off all the items that are for Wood’s Homes,” said Lacombe.

Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports is currently picking the families who will receive Christmas gifts.

“There will be at least five, maybe we’ll take a couple more because we do have some seniors and a veteran on there, so we want to make sure we add them in,” said Lacombe.

After the home drop-offs, the festivities will continue at Wear M out. 

“They’ve donated their space,” said Lacombe. “We are going to give the Hestia Homes group home youths the Christmas in the way they would like. All of their lists have the same thing on it, which is time with Rise Above. It’s been hard. COVID takes from us in a lot of ways. They (Wear M out) run at a third capacity, so this allows us to be able to get everyone in the door, have a great meal, have some fun and play some games. That’s how we’ll end the 19th. It’s a big thing, but it’s worth it.”

Going forward in 2022, Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports will be providing natural mentorship.

“It’s just about being someone’s friend,” said Lacombe. “We’re noticing even adults are signing up for this. We have a senior who has signed up for this and we’ve signed up alongside other organizations like Wood’s Homes and we’re doing natural mentorship with them and we do it with Hestia. That’s just showing up when they need us and when they decide they need a friend. Our slogan is “Together, we’re family,’ and that’s really what we’re trying to grow here in Lethbridge. If you don’t have a family and you need a family or a friend or just need someone to belong or someone to talk to, that’s what we are. We can be that family.”

Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports also runs an initiative called Nana’s Pantry, a food support system.

“We’re trying to reach those people whose stigma is so heavy,” said Lacombe. “Maybe they work really hard, but they found themselves in these spots and they don’t have anybody to call and they don’t have a family they can reach out to for that quick fix. But with Nana’s Pantry, we’re that family. You can call. You don’t have shoes for your child or you don’t have a bus pass for your college courses because maybe something happened that took extra money this month and you just don’t have it. You can call. So it’s just bridging the gap and that happens all year round.”

Also coming in 2022 is a fundraiser for the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre for their Child Advocacy Initiative.

“We’re here because we’re a lot of people who have been through things,” said Lacombe. “We ourselves have had mental health issues. We’re the same as anyone else. We just want to be here and we’re a strong family of our own. We have a great array of amazing people in our organization.”

Rise Above Mental Health and Community Supports Facebook page can be visited at https://www.facebook.com/groups/519638795839819.

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