“A couple of nice hours of camaraderie” is how
Carol Terry describes her weekly visit to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Halifax-Dartmouth’s Mental Health Community Coffee House.
“Just look for the oldest person there and that’s me,” says the 83 year old, who calls the coffee house her favourite social gathering of the week.
Funded by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s community grant, it’s a highly anticipated Saturday activity for individuals living with mental illness and addiction, as well as the wider community.
“I’ve had the pleasure of attending the coffee house several times and I’m always impressed by the musical talent at the microphone, the welcoming environment and the warmth of the crowd,” says Starr Cunningham, the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s president and CEO. “You can’t drop by the coffee house without tapping your toes, singing along and making a new friend.”
Terry lives alone and relies on Access-A-Bus for transportation. Her weekly attendance at the event helps reduce loneliness and isolation for her and more than 160 other individuals with varying degrees of mental health.
“I’d be lost without it,” admits Terry. “There are some weeks that’s the only day I’m out at all. At my age, most of my friends have passed on. It’s a place to go where I feel safe. You go and you look like you’re down, someone will come and cheer you up. And there are others I know who come and fill up their stomachs. There’s certainly no one who comes there and goes hungry.”
The Mental Health Community Coffee House also provides an assortment of healthy snacks (and treats) for its patrons, many of whom have come to count on the gathering for their next meal. In fact, Terry plays a role in that, too. She makes an annual donation to the charity and regularly contributes baked goods to help her less fortunate coffee house friends.
“Carol is a delight! She faithfully comes by Access-A-Bus and even brings treats and donations at times,” says Marg Murray, co-manager of the CMHA Halifax-Dartmouth branch. “She only missed our Saturday coffee house when she had hip surgery this past winter.”
Those five weeks in the hospital were made much easier by her coffee house friends. Several came to visit and lift her spirits. She was even treated to a special performance over the phone straight from the Saturday afternoon festivities.
“They all signed a card from the coffee house and brought it to me with a pig with wings and it said, ‘Love you ’til pigs fly!’” says Terry. “It meant the world to me.”
It’s that kind of support that makes the program so special and keeps people like Terry coming back each week to fuel up on positive vibes.
“If you helped somebody, you feel good,” says Terry. “If they helped you, you feel good because they cared enough to help.”
The Mental Health Community Coffee House has wrapped up for the summer, but that hasn’t stopped Terry from staying social. She books her Access-A-Bus a week in advance to ensure she doesn’t miss the CMHA’s new Summer Jam.
Did you know? CHMA Halifax-Dartmouth hosts Summer Jam Friday afternoons at 2020 Gottingen St. All are welcome to attend.