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Rotary Club gives big donation to mental health project

'We were in complete shock and awe. When Glenn (Hagel) called saying, ‘We have tallied up the number,’ my mind had a much lower figure … so he took my breath away with the amount that it was.'

MOOSE JAW — Rotarians from across Western Canada were so impressed with Moose Jaw’s efforts to address mental health and well-being that they left behind a massive donation to support those activities. 

“Hope and Mental Wellness” was the theme for this year’s Rotary International District 5550 Conference, which occurred on May 10 and 11 at the Exhibition Company’s Convention Centre.

The Wakamow Club — with support from the clubs of Moose Jaw and Assiniboia — organized the annual event, which attracted nearly 200 members from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

Besides speakers — like Maryse Carmichael and Laura Hamilton — and professional development activities, the conference also featured a silent auction, which was so successful that organizers took every single penny — $4,097.79, to be exact — and donated it to Journey 2 Hope.

Glenn Hagel, conference chairman and member of the Wakamow Club, and Leanne Pituley, silent auction co-ordinator and member of the Assiniboia Club, presented the cheque to Della Ferguson, chairwoman of Journey to Hope, and Donna Atsu-Bowyer, board member and suicide prevention trainer, during a presentation in Crescent Park on June 19.

“We were in complete shock and awe. When Glenn called saying, ‘We have tallied up the number,’ my mind had a much lower figure … so he took my breath away with the amount that it was,” said Ferguson. 

“So, we are so, so grateful and honoured … . So that’s just a wonderful gift,” she continued. “And we are at the mercy of the donations of our community, and they’ve been so generous in the support they give. So this is a great example of that.” 

Journey 2 Hope will use the cheque to cover the costs to print the third edition of its “Get Loud for Mental Health” guide, which lists all available resources in Moose Jaw. It plans to produce the booklet — which it updates every two years — this fall.  

The organization’s board is comprised of volunteers, so none of the donations will go toward administrative expenses, said Atsu-Bowyer. This is important because sometimes residents are concerned about how their donations are used.

“I am so proud because I think the cheque reflects the enthusiasm of Rotarians for the objective that Journey 2 Hope has. So, to me, it’s a beautiful connection,” said Hagel. “And it’s nice to see the energy of the conference being continued in an ongoing way in the community because of including Journey 2 Hope in the picture.

“As Rotarians, it makes us feel proud to contribute to the community.”

The silent auction total is the highest amount ever raised at a Rotary conference, Hagel said, which he attributed to Ferguson’s presentation on Day 1 and the fact donors knew their money was going toward Journey 2 Hope.

The fact that Journey 2 Hope will use the donation to spread information about mental health supports in a meaningful way “is just totally consistent with the objectives and the feelings of people at the conference,” he added. 

Organizing the silent auction was easy for Pituley because all the clubs in the district stepped forward and provided many great items. With a chuckle, she said the only thing she had to do was co-ordinate the auction for one day and then collect the money.

Pituley also agreed that it felt good to donate to Moose Jaw, saying the Assiniboia members consider themselves a part of The Friendly since it’s the largest and closest centre. Moreover, they know they can use Journey 2 Hope’s services, while that organization can also support their community and the surrounding rural areas.

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