Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army, Central York Region has seen an dramatic increase in those in need of mental health support.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the needs for our community related to our mental health services,” said Angela Covert, community relations representative for the Salvation Army, Northridge Community Church. “There’s been additional referrals sent to us, people calling in, and families reaching out, primarily due to COVID-related trauma and anxiety. There’s a feeling of hopelessness coming out of the pandemic and loss, not just of people, but of jobs.”
Covert said that the impact of the pandemic has stretched resources thin in the mental health realm and, as a result, there are more people who need support, but less support available.
As a result, they’ve launched the inaugural Salvation Army Mental Health Gala for Thursday, Sept. 21 at Northridge Community Church at 15338 Leslie St. in Aurora.
The funds raised through the gala will directly benefit the mental health services offered by the local Salvation Army.
Currently, services are provided through two hired psychotherapists who deliver individual/family group therapy. Currently, 60 people per week attend group sessions and in 2022 the psychotherapists provided 1,000 hours of individual counselling services.
“We hired an additional psychotherapist (after already having one full-time) and we hired another individual on a grant that came out of COVID relief, but we’ve decided to keep her on because of the need and are therefore taking from various budgets,” Covert said.
A few years ago, Covert was tasked with focusing on raising funds for the mental health services of the Salvation Army. And after a scrapbooking event last February, it opened her eyes to the potential of hosting a metal health-oriented event.
“It definitely showed to me that there was great interest in meeting the needs of people’s mental health,” she said. “I started thinking, what could we do that’s fun, light, engaging and hopeful, while getting the message across.”
After reaching out to a few women involved with the scrapbooking event, and others in the community, the gala came to be.
“I’ve never held a gala and it came together out of my desire to do something we’ve never done,” said Covert. “But for me, it fits the goal of bringing people joy while having a purpose. My hope is that it will be a fun event that provides an opportunity to connect because it’s not a sit-down dinner, it’s more like a cocktail party.”
With the food and refreshments, Covert wanted to engage other community groups that they’ve connected with over the years that provide other types of services.
“Community Living Central York has a cooking program, so they’ll provide some of the food,” she said. “York Region Food Network, another organization we partnered with for our scrapbooking event, has a catering service and they’ll be a partner in this event. Niagara College - Aurora Armoury are going to be designing our mocktails. We wanted to engage other groups that can benefit from the exposure.”
The gala will feature live music and dancing with George St. Kitts performing; speeches by mental health advocates; food and drinks (non-alcoholic) donated by local vendors; live and online auction. The live auction includes a live painting by Dubi Akinola, sports memorabilia, art painted by Rosa Calabrese-Teal and Christina Pearo, four-night Airbnb in Moncton, a quilt for a double bed, and a lunch for two with Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas.
The gala will be from 7 to 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. Tickets are $100 and several local dignitaries are expected to be in attendance, which includes emcee Christina Pearo, host of Living Local on Yes TV.
Purchase tickets, donate, and find more details here.