The final notice has been received and the Helping Hand, a mission of the Pentecostal Church, has until October 17th to vacate its location in the old Morrisburg High School, where it has been a source of clothing for those in need for the past 11 years.
Unfortunate, but true, the Helping Hand used clothing depot, answers a very big need in South Dundas and the surrounding area with an average of 2000-2,500 visitors benefiting from it each year.
The fact that the Helping Hand has to vacate is not a surprise as they were put on notice way back in 2009, that they were in their location on a monthly basis. With the upcoming renovation to the historic high school building to house an expansion to the St. Lawrence Medical and the South Dundas Municipal offices, the monthly basis has ended and the Helping Hand is closing.
The problem is that since they were put on notice of the eventual loss of their location they have been unable to find a new location that would be rent-free, or at the very least, very cheap.
“We have a lot of people not happy about it,” says Pentecostal minister, Rev. Duncan Perry. “But we can’t afford to go somewhere else. We have a couple thousand dollars (donations) a year coming in, but that is not enough to rent.”
“We don’t want to locate in the mall, and the only other building in town is the former St. Lawrence Parks building.”
According to Rev. Perry, that building is in such poor shape it is no longer an option, and he understands the Food Bank will replace the County Library in its lower level arena location should the library move to the high school, once renovated.
“I was really hoping they (municipality) would give us half of the bottom of the arena,” says Rev. Perry. “But I understand that it is going to the arena staff for a workshop/storage. It would have been a perfect fit for us.”
“We’ve been open for 11 years, and we are averaging 2,000 to 2,500 people a year. The $2,000 we receive in donations (goodwill donations from those who benefit from the Helping Hand, and donations from the community) is put back into the community.”
Recently, money was donated to the Breakfast Programs at Seaway High and Morrisburg Public Schools. “We’ve also given a lot to the Food Bank over the years.”
“People have come to us and told us that if we weren’t (Helping Hand) here, they didn’t know what they would do. The clothing donated to us is top notch and we made a decision at the start, that if we wouldn’t wear it, it wouldn’t be used.”
“One lady has been using it over and over through the years to clothe her children.”
“Those are the kind of stories we hear every week.”
“It is really amazing what we have done locally, and we’ve sent truckloads of clothes overseas when we couldn’t handle it all.”
The Helping Hand is run by volunteers and there is no charge for the clothing, although visitors can make goodwill donations.
“We have helped people from all over. We wish we could keep it open, we really do. It’s too bad, and I understand the town doesn’t have the money for a building.”
“I do believe the number of working poor is getting larger. It’s unfortunate we need a place like this but we do. If there was a place found, we wouldn’t even think about shutting it down. If they would reconsider letting us share with the Food Bank that would be ideal.”
That, however, according to Rev. Perry, is not an option at this time, and the Helping Hand is preparing to close by the October 17 deadline. Arrangements have been made for representatives from Agape in Cornwall to visit the facility, with the hope that they will be able to take the clothing.
Located at 40, Fifth Street West in Cornwall, the Agape Centre runs a Food Bank, Soup Kitchen and Thrift Shoppe.
South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds says he is appreciative of the service the Helping Hand provides to the community. “It’s unfortunate, but hopefully they will find somewhere in the community.”
Byvelds confirmed that the long-term plan is for removal of the former Parks building. “That building is done, and we are only spending what we have to, to keep it going.”
He says there has been some discussion of moving the Food Bank to the arena location, but the discussions are very preliminary and nothing is decided and nothing can or will be decided until the final plans are in place for the high school.
Those plans, are for the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic to occupy the first floor (ground level) and the municipal offices to occupy some or all (if necessary) of the second floor. Once these two entities are accommodated then the remaining space, including the third floor, will be considered.
Their deep belief that the future can indeed be brighter for six-year-old Charlie, took the family of Matthew and Kelly DeJong thousands of kilometres around the globe to Quigdao, China, in the early fall of 2011.
“Charlie has cerebral palsy,” said mother, Kelly DeJong. “However, his long term prognosis at age six was very poor.”
Charlie had no independent functions. He was unable to chew and swallow solid food, which meant that he would probably have to be attached to a feeding tube in the near future. Spastic muscles refused him the ability to sit up independently, walk or speak. He was unable to regulate his circulatory system, suffering extremes of cold and heat. He could not control his eyes well enough to focus on many things.
“Yet Charlie is a healthy, happy little guy,” his mother said. “We wanted to give him better opportunities. We hoped for any improvement in his quality of life.”
The DeJongs contacted the doctors of the Beike Institute, China, specialists in pioneering stem cell research and treatments. Following intensive medical testing and examinations, the Institute agreed that Charlie was a candidate for treatment.
Through the year-long efforts of neighbours, family, businesses, service groups (including the Iroquois-Matilda Lions Club) churches and the simple generosity of caring strangers, the family was able to raise the $50,000 needed to pay for the out-of-country treatments.
On July 14, Charlie and his mother, along with cousin Hanke DeJong Thompson, left Ottawa on the first leg of a journey that would take them to Vancouver, then to Hong Kong and finally to Qingdao, mainland China. Father Matthew and siblings Abigail and Thomas joined Charlie and Kelly in China for the final two weeks of the six weeks of treatments.
During those challenging weeks, doctors at the Beike Institute kept Charlie on a series of treatments that would have been tough on an adult, let alone a small boy.
He received his first two stem cell treatments through IVs, but the next six were delivered through spinal injections, two a week, under general anaesthesia. This was ultimately very hard on him: a decision was made to give his last two injections intravenously.
He faced intensive deep tissue massage, acupuncture treatments and electric wave therapy every day.
A foot ball player from Canada, also undergoing spinal cell treatments, actually refused any further spinal injections after the first. “Later he told us that Charlie was the bravest kid in the hospital,” Kelly said.
On her second day in China, Kelly slipped on the “beautiful but lethal” granite walkways around the hospital and broke her foot.
To Charlie’s “mortification, I ended up on the same table as him, getting therapy on my foot as he was receiving it on his arms and legs,” Kelly recalled, laughing.
The DeJongs learned there are some profound differences between Eastern and Western methods of treatment.
“In China, symptoms are treated in a very business like manner. Chinese doctors are very passionate about their jobs, but they have little patience with unco-operative or semi traumatized patients. Children are treated like mini adults and expected to behave as such,” Kelly explained. “There are none of the emotional connections, the compassion between doctor and patient expected in Western medicine. When I broke my foot, essentially I was told to walk it off, to not make a fuss.”
“Yet,” said Matthew DeJong, “the people we met in China would have done anything for us. Patients stay on special floors at the Chengyang People’s Hospital, and translators are with families day and night. These people were always ready to interpret medical information (doctors seldom speak English) to deal with all our concerns and issues. Everyone, even street vendors, offered their help. This is a beautiful country. I think we all left part of our hearts in China.”
Has the family seen changes in Charlie since his return from China?
“Absolutely,” said Kelly. “He is now able to regulate his own body temperature. His muscle control is greatly improved; he is moving his body more easily and he seems to have developed much more stamina. This is incredible in a child who is spastic. He is struggling harder than ever to control the muscles in his mouth. I think he really wants to speak.”
“Charlie could never focus well on anything,” Matthew said. “Since he came home he has been able to focus on television and computer screens, following the action and dialogue and roaring with laughter at the comedies. His ability to pay attention has really improved.”
For Charlie one change that is highly significant is his new ability to chew.
It first appeared after his fourth stem cell injection.
For his entire life Charlie has only been able to eat puréed baby foods. His spastic bite reflex would not allow him to control chewing muscles. If he did attempt solid food of any kind, he threw up or choked.
“I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich one day,” Kelly said. “and he indicated he wanted some. He actually chewed and swallowed some tiny pieces. This was a phenomenal change. I have since been able to introduce lasagna, eggs, hamburgers, things he could never have touched. He chews slowly, but he chews. He has reduced the future need for a feeding tube by 80 per cent with this change.”
The long treatments in China ended on September 8 with a joyous family re-union in Ottawa with grandparents Albert and Reina DeJong and Heather and Dick Hamill.
“The doctors and staff in China often heard me telling Charlie to ‘keep your head up,’” said Kelly DeJong. “They began calling him ‘Taito’, which in Chinese means Head Up.”
Charlie DeJong is a determined young man, one definitely facing a challenging future with his ‘head up.’
At the March 20th South Dundas council meeting, Hugh Garlough, manager of public works, presented council with a list of quotations for outsourcing, including equipment rental and various repair jobs for 2012 and 2013.
Garlough recommended that council “accept all quotations submitted and that the public works and recreation departments use the low bids. Low bids will be used unless the contractor cannot supply the equipment on the required date. Then, we will select the next low bid to hire the required equipment.”
“We put a quotation system out in the three papers and on the website,” he continued, “this year we had 19 people respond and this is a two-year term.”
Deputy-mayor Jim Locke commented, “there are lots of people looking for work. Prices aren’t inflated from last year.”
Councillor Jim Graham agreed, saying, “it’s nice to see lots of people bidding on it.”
She’s one of the founding stars of This Hour Has 22 Minutes (now CBC’s 22 Minutes.) She was a writer/performer with the CODCO troop from Newfoundland. She’s shared television, stage, acting and writing credits […]