Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why We Got Involved! Supporters of The Lighthouse Program Tell Why Giving Feels Great

Since the opening of The Lighthouse Program for women and children, we at Brandywine Counseling have seen a wonderful response from people in the community who want to help out the program by donating time or items. Thank you to all of you!

You’ve volunteered to teach classes for the moms, including crocheting, computers, ceramics, and Life Skills. You’ve donated toys, clothing, a huge train set, five sewing machines for the sewing class, and handmade quilts for the babies. Most impressively, you answered our call to help build a children’s playground, as we raised over $19,500 and surpassed our goal! The playground has been built and gives our kids an outlet for relaxation and releasing stress while their moms work on their recovery.

It’s time now to celebrate you, our donors. We want to share some of your stories, why you gave, and what it meant to you. Though your reasons for giving were quite diverse, you did have something in common: a feeling of personal involvement. By giving, you were also getting something back. And, there was another common thread: Shay Lipshitz, BCI’s Director of Sussex Services. It seems that wherever she goes, Shay can’t help but spread her enthusiasm for the program!

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Miriam Zadek was one of the first friends Shay introduced to Lighthouse. “The Lighthouse program has a superb advocate in Shay,” Miriam says. “Her ability to engage one’s interest, both by providing information about the importance of programs such as Lighthouse, and her willingness to share her own story, can capture the imagination of anyone who has the privilege of hearing it.” Invited to visit the program for a firsthand look, Miriam willingly accepted. “I was struck by the young women[’s] engagement in achieving goals which would lead them to being productive, accomplished, self-sustaining parents and individuals.” However, she also saw a paucity of resources for children's play and learning. She saw the need to rectify this, and decided to support the playground campaign with a donation.

“My husband and I have spent happy summers and year-round visits in Rehoboth, and owned homes here since 1973. We feel, wherever we live, that we have an obligation to give. We have welcomed opportunities to assist several programs in the area, all of which aim to assist people in acquiring the skills to live more comfortable, productive lives. We are especially concerned with the need for educational resources for children. As programs provide opportunities for growth, this makes our world a better place for all. We hope, in giving, that we can encourage others to give, according to their capacity.”

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Suzanne Squires became involved with Lighthouse for a different reason. For her, it was a chance to support addiction recovery, something she has personal experience with as Shay’s sponsor. “Addicted mothers have the hardest time staying with their children,” says Suzanne. “Through the Lighthouse Program, they can be with their children and learn parenting skills.” Upon visiting the program, she found it was “wonderful; very homey and clean.”

She felt she could impact the program in a positive way by donating. “I decided to donate because I thought it was a much needed program. It is a great feeling to know that by contributing, I have helped someone in a very concrete way. Every little bit helps. I think Shay and Brandywine Counseling have made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. I applaud them!”

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Carol Ann Rudolph became introduced to Lighthouse and Shay through the Seaside Jewish Community. Carol Ann met Shay through her late mother, Dorothy Shor, with whom she used to play mah jong. “Shay told me about her work, and I was totally intrigued by it, and very, very moved by the concept of this program.” After visiting the program, she became even more committed to raising money. “The facility has been done so beautifully. The quality of the work, the space for the counseling is so warm and inviting. It’s a place that’s been built with a sense of dignity and respect for the women, and for the hope they will have a better life, and I truly sense that.”

In September, Carol Ann organized a “Lunch With A Purpose” fundraiser (pictured above) in conjunction with Seaside to benefit Lighthouse. About 60 people attended, the largest turnout the luncheon had ever had. $450 was raised from a raffle including gift certificates, crafts, and art. In addition, guests pledged a number of in-kind donations to the program.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to use your energy and your time for something as purposeful as this program,” Carol Ann says. “These women are now going to be able to be productive in society, and they’re going to be healthy, mentally, physically, emotionally. Then, they will have better lives. The children will have a better quality of life, and a better chance at life in this society.”
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Florence Levy brings a one-of-a-kind perspective as a supporter of Lighthouse. An 84-year-old retired nurse, Florence gave out the first dose of methadone in Delaware in 1968, at Wilmington Hospital. That clinic turned into Brandywine Counseling in 1985. More recently, she became friends with Shay through Seaside Jewish Community.

Florence recalls what a new experience it was to open the clinic with less than ten patients. “I didn’t know a drug addict from a hole in the wall, all I knew was some guy that played a horn in New York City in a dingy bar. That was my opinion of a drug addict! I had no idea what I was dealing with. Everybody said, 'Aren’t you afraid?' Well, I wasn’t afraid of them. I went to conferences in Washington, D.C. and I was the only older white woman without torn jeans and long hair!”

Under Florence’s supervision, the clinic grew, and soon it generated success stories. “We had one young woman who was pregnant, and we started to wean her off of the methadone, and she didn’t know we were weaning her off, she just thought maybe she was getting a touch of the flu. When we gave her the last dose, she was so thrilled and so excited, she was jumping and dancing around. We had a success story! Over the years, I’ve lost track with a lot of them, but it was a rewarding assignment and it was an education for me.”

When Florence learned that Lighthouse was opening, it just made sense to become involved. “I was there for the opening day when Gov. Minner was there. I truly believe in it, and to have their children there is a great asset.” Years ago, Florence would have eagerly taken a more active role in the program, but today she feels the best way she can contribute is through the occasional donation of money and clothes. The reason is simple, and the same as it was forty years ago. “It feels wonderful to help those people.”

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We could not celebrate our donors’ stories without including Shay herself, because in addition to directing the program, and spreading the word to others, she is also a donor. Why does it come so naturally to tell others?

“I tell because I believe in what we do at Brandywine,” she says. “I tell because I know personally that treatment works. I tell because this is a deadly disease that left untreated kills more than the person. Addiction destroys families, homes, health, dreams, hope and dignity. I tell because I am loyal to a company that gave an addict like me a chance to work. I tell because to watch the faces of children who are spared the suffering that comes with active addiction is a joy unparalleled. I want people to put a face on recovery. I do not think people have seen treatment. They hear about it, but have no idea what it looks like.

“I gave because it is a way of giving back the gift I received. Recovery has given me a life that is priceless and my dollars would never even be possible without it. I give because it shows that treatment works, and I give because I am thankful.

“My donation was for the playground. Many of the children have had little fun in their short lives, and I want to hear their laughter and see the moms feel joy from the happiness of their kids. I have a wonderful life, and I am grateful to be clean and sober. I am the one who benefits from my giving. In recovery, it is my obligation to pass on what works, and giving to others works. It has for me.”

The Lighthouse Program is funded by and is part of the system of public services offered by Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. For more information about The Lighthouse Program, please call 302-424-8080.

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