Della Ferguson is a passionate advocate in the community of Moose Jaw for the unhoused, the grieving, those struggling with mental health, and people with addictions.
Ferguson devotes much of her time and energy to leading, participating in, and fundraising for organizations such as Square One Community, Journey to Hope Moose Jaw, Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, and Heartland Hospice. She finds purpose and fulfillment in her volunteer work.
“I think a lot of it has to do with how I was brought up,” Ferguson said. “My mom was very involved in everything, and I think that’s what she mentored. That’s what you do, you get involved and be part of the community and support the wellbeing of the community.
“I think that life is about making meaning, and so being involved brings meaning to my life, and a sense of purpose and direction.”
Through her work as a grief supporter and funeral celebrant at W.J. Jones & Son Funeral Home, Ferguson has spent hundreds of hours sharing compassion and understanding through some of the hardest moments of people’s lives.
The grief support groups she runs at W.J. Jones & Son include groups for grieving parents, spouses, and those who have lost someone to suicide.
Ferguson recently led the 25th edition of W.J. Jones & Son’s Mourning Star Christmas service — an outreach event she began shortly after starting with the funeral home.
Journey to Hope, founded in 2007, raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for suicide prevention efforts. In addition to supporting a youth chapter that is active in local high schools, Journey to Hope helps provide suicide hotline training, screening for mental health disorders, and raises awareness to help combat socio-cultural stigma that could prevent individuals and/or those who care about them from seeking relief.
In June, local organizers of a rucksack march in Wakamow Valley raised $10,000 for Journey to Hope. The annual event that Journey to Hope holds in Crescent Park each September featured local speakers who have lost someone to suicide, and revealed a new initiative — offering training for those who want the skills to intervene in mental health crises.
Through Heartland Hospice, Ferguson is helping to build hospice palliative care capacity in Moose Jaw. The Heartland Hospice board, on which Ferguson serves as secretary, hopes that 2023 will see the grand opening of a completed hospice wing at the Saskatchewan Health Authority Pioneer Lodge facility.
Hospice care is about making the last few months of a person’s life as comfortable, pain-free, and compassionate as possible. Heartland Hospice Moose Jaw installed the first dedicated hospice bed in the city. When renovations at Pioneer Lodge are complete, there will be three such beds.
Heartland Hospice also provides memorial events at Pioneer Lodge, such as the first annual Heartlights memorial service that took place last August, and end-of-life resources, education, and seminars for anyone who needs them.
Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW) is an over-the-phone arts program that has grown to support an active community in Moose Jaw and throughout the surrounding area.
Although Ferguson recently had to step away from her involvement in SCWW due to time constraints, she highly recommends the program as “an amazing support network for seniors.”
SCWW works with partners such as the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery to provide clients with art supplies. Then, they can call in to a conference line and an instructor leads them through the activity. Group participants and leaders say the groups always turn into conversations as people get to know each other and become friends, which helps to combat loneliness and isolation.
“There are so many people who do such big amounts of work in regards to seniors,” Ferguson said. “Seniors are such valuable storytellers and have so much to teach us.
“It’s so important that we value them and their stories and their journeys, right to the end. Right to the very end, to give back to them in every way possible.”
Would you like to get involved in your community? Community-based organizations are always looking for more help. Find more information from the following websites: