The year 1990 doesn’t seem that long ago, but Jennifer Childs (left) admits the calendar is right.
It was 25 years ago that a group catering to adults with mental illnesses was formed in Delta, and it’s still going strong – and evolving.
“I was just a whipper-snapper,” says the executive director of Delta Alliance for Wellness and Networking (DAWN) Society.
Childs joined DAWN about two years after it was formed, at a time when the society was moving out of a remote, inadequate rented space on the Surrey border to its present, fully renovated clubhouse in North Delta.
Things really got rolling when Fraser Health provided core funding, she explains.
Started originally by a group of parents, concerned citizens and community partners who wanted services for people in Delta with a mental illness, DAWN evolved into the centre of a variety of programs tailored to what has grown to serve 300 individuals – a few from Surrey as well as Delta.
DAWN’s programs include community support, supported independent living (rent subsidy), therapeutic volunteer placement, social enterprise and a number of recreational social programs.
Childs says that while the clubhouse remains a daily drop-in centre with social recreation components, it has increased its focus on rehabilitation and supported work programs.
“It’s totally changed. We want people to be contributing members to the community,” Childs says.
Two of the new social enterprise businesses created by DAWN allow clients to engage in paid part-time employment.
The two businesses are the GLEAM Team, a house cleaning service in Delta and Surrey, and the Delta Hospital TV program, which provides TV rentals to patients at Delta Hospital.
The basic work experience stepping stones include an experimental moving crew team.
Employment coordinator Carol Thompson says the more demanding jobs, whether moving or cleaning, are supervised for safety, and are often provided for other clients.
DAWN is also hosting the Gerry Graham Music Program for a third year.
Named after a client who loved music and passed away, the program brings in professional music teachers and entertainers.
There’s also the continuing and expanding You Gotta Have Art program, led by Lana Hart.
DAWN is currently scouting locations to sell cards created by clients to fundraise for DAWN programs.
Referrals to DAWN programs are made thought Delta Mental Health (North) at 604-592-3700 and (South) 604-948-7010.
For more information about DAWN, call 604-596-6694. The society will soon update its website at www.dawnsociety.ca