The past year, which has amounted to the worst of circumstances for some, has also brought out the best in others. People like Brooks-TLC Hospital System employees are among those who understand just how fortunate they are to have jobs and access to resources – especially now. And they walked the walk this Christmas by giving back to the community.
As tradition goes, the hospital selects a local agency to receive gifts donated by staff through a Giving Tree. This past holiday season, it was suggested by Megan Schmitt, director of substance user disorders, that the hospital help its less fortunate patients served at the Cassadaga and Derby chemical dependency outpatient clinics.
“Every year, our counselors spend a great deal of time working with patients to help them apply for Toys for Tots and other programs that donate children’s Christmas gifts to low income families”, Schmitt shared. “It makes sense to support our own patients, who are among the most vulnerable families in our community, especially during COVID-19”, she added.
With that it was settled. Substance use counselors quickly began working with clients to create wish lists for their children. Anonymous gift tags identified only by each child’s initials, age and gender were hung on the hospital’s Christmas tree just after Thanksgiving.
The hospital’s Giving Tree has become a time-honored tradition employees look forward to. They carefully choose a tag – many select a child similar to their own child’s age, while others choose multiple tags. Laboratory department staff member, Kristen Cook, took gift tags for not just her own three children, but also for their fellow scouts in Cub Scout Pack 267, Arrow of Light in Fredonia, to give back to those less fortunate.
Ultimately, over 200 gifts were collected and each child received both a “need” and “want” gift. Delivery to the clinics required a team effort and took at least six van loads brimming over with toys, coats, clothes and books. Clinic staff members Tim Munch and Martin Weaver had the privilege of delivering wrapped gifts to roughly 80 families in our community.
In a letter written to hospital staff, Schmitt thanked hospital staff sharing “The chemical dependency department and the patients we serve are humbled by your generosity in making so many children’s Christmas wishes come true. Please know, your selflessness truly created magic in many children’s lives.”
“The Giving Tree project is special for all of us at Brooks-TLC”, shared Paul DeSantis, who, together with his wife, participates annually. “Being able to make a child’s Christmas wish come true is a blessing in its’ own right. This year was even more special for so many reasons. When I read that a child was dreaming of a warm coat for Christmas I came to realize how difficult life can become. My wife and I were so taken back by this wish that we decided to add a few extra items to his present.”
“It is our sincere hope that this child and others like him can take comfort in the fact that all of us at the hospital care for his well-being, he added. “We are already looking forward to next Christmas.”
Brooks-TLC’s substance use disorder outpatient treatment program provides a full continuum of trauma-informed care, including coordinated medical and behavioral health care, individual and group therapy.