Gifting Tuesday thanks behavioral health workers

CARLSBORG — Officials with an area nonprofit embraced two tenets of the holiday season this year: It is the thought that counts, and it is better to give than receive.

The Olympic Peninsula Healthy Communities Coalition (OPHCC) turned Giving Tuesday, the now-traditional post-Thanksgiving philanthropy event, into Gifting Tuesday for 350 behavioral health workers in the nonprofit, educational and tribal sectors across Clallam County.

The move also boosted locally-owned businesses with $3,500 in purchases.

Leslee Francis, Olympic Peninsula Healthy Communities Coalition executive director, prepares to deliver some of the 350 jars of kindness prepared by the organization for behavioral health workers. (Courtesy photo)

Leslee Francis, Olympic Peninsula Healthy Communities Coalition executive director, prepares to deliver some of the 350 jars of kindness prepared by the organization for behavioral health workers. (Courtesy photo)

Behavioral health workers were provided small tokens of appreciation in the form of “jars of kindness” that each contained $10 gift certificates to locally-owned restaurants and small businesses as well as an Advent calendar-style collection of 31 days of thank-you notes and inspirational quotes from a selection of politicians, first responders and other county leaders.

OPHCC Executive Director Leslee Francis said the coalition’s board brainstormed potential recipients of some kindness and decided that, due to the rise in demand for mental health care during the pandemic, behavioral health care workers were a more than worthy cause.

“That’s exactly where our heart was with this project,” Francis said.

“Giving kindness is one of the most important things to us, and to make sure the gifts were sincere and show behavioral health workers how valuable and appreciated they are.”

Foregoing the initial thoughts of jars full of homemade cookies or soup, Francis and the coalition collected 31 quotes across December’s 31 days “to have something positive and kind.”

She worked with the Sequim Walmart to source 350 canning jars, no small feat in the pandemic supply chain, and had the quotes printed on colorful paper at Office Depot.

Canning jars have become a hot commodity during the pandemic and were selected to represent how valuable the aid these workers provide has been during this time.

Thank-you notes to behavioral health workers by Laura Foster on Scribd

Sincere thanks

Notes from first responders struck a powerful chord with Francis since those frontline workers deal with behavioral health crises on a daily basis — and also with the aftermath of those events.

“The Port Angeles Fire Chief Ken Dubuc sent an incredibly heart-felt thank you,” Francis said. “Also the Joyce Fire Chief Greg Waters and the Police Chief in Port Angeles, Brian Smith.”

In his note, Dubuc mentioned sometimes feeling “embarrassed” by the amount of publicity and praise that first responders and firefighters receive for racing to emergencies, while the aftermath of these events — hurt and broken lives, sadness and pain and property loss — often go unrecognized.

“It seems to me that it is the mental health providers who are often left to ‘pick up the pieces’ and heal the wounds — an effort that goes on behind the scenes and often unnoticed, an effort that is complex, time consuming and certainly difficult,” Dubuc wrote.

“For what it is worth, please know that you are appreciated, that you are noticed, that you are considered a vital link in the chain of responders who work tirelessly every day to [do] what can be done to care for those in need.”

Agency Thank You’s by Laura Foster on Scribd

Waters’ words touched on the increased demand for these workers during the pandemic.

“I can’t recall a time in recent history where your services were more vital for our community,” Waters wrote.

“As a paramedic, I have seen the toll mental health issues have on our patients along with their family and loved ones.”

Sound Publishing Vice President Terry Ward — publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum — reflected on the value found in serving others above self.

He quoted actor Will Smith: “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you are wasting your time. Your life will be become better by making others’ lives better.”

Wrote Ward: “Thank you for working so diligently to make the lives of others better. The difference you make is valued and appreciated.”

OPHCC by Laura Foster on Scribd

Gift certificates were purchased at Sequim’s Sunshine Cafe, Lola’s Cafe, barbecue and Frugal’s in Port Angeles, Blackberry Cafe in Joyce; and at Sully’s Burgers in Forks.

“The owner of Lola’s teared up, he was so touched to be included,” Francis said.

The Lower Elwha Food and Fuel station, which didn’t offer gift certificates previously, even went to the trouble of producing some for workers with the Lower Elwha Klallam and Makah tribes.

For three days, Francis’ kitchen and dining room was turned into a jars-of-kindness assembly line with her two children, Sequim Middle School students Austin, 11, and Savannah 13, providing assistance, along with her husband Doug.

Francis then delivered the jars to behavioral health workers from Sequim to Neah Bay.

She said the response was full of gratitude and overwhelmingly emotional.

“Once they received the jars and saw what they were, they realized we see you and so does our community,” Francis said.

A selection of sentiments sent to OPHCC follows.

Thank-you notes and inspirational quotes from Clallam County politicians, first responders and other well-known residents were included in jars of kindness distributed to 350 Clallam County behavioral health workers by the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Communities Coalition. (Courtesy photo)

Thank-you notes and inspirational quotes from Clallam County politicians, first responders and other well-known residents were included in jars of kindness distributed to 350 Clallam County behavioral health workers by the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Communities Coalition. (Courtesy photo)

‘Literally bawling’

“I have a free hour here at the end of the week. So I grabbed my little jar, put my feet up on my desk and am literally bawling as I read these beautiful messages,” Front Street Clinic Supervisor Dena Crosby wrote.

“I didn’t even realize just how tired we all are and how much we are all doing, I guess, until I stopped to read these. To know people see and hear and do care means so much and will help keep us all going strong… . Now I need a Kleenex.”

“I thank you, our kindred spirits, for your thoughtfulness and support to our Behavioral Health team. It means a lot to us. Klecko, Klecko [Thank you in the Makah language],” wrote Elizabeth Buckingham, Behavioral Health and Wellness Manager for the Makah Tribe’s Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Center.

Dr. Kristine Johnson, North Olympic Healthcare Network Behavioral Health Services manager, wrote, “I had the great privilege today of receiving the incredibly thoughtful, endlessly warm gift of jars of appreciation from your team. It was an honor to get to distribute the jars to my staff and take a few moments with each of them to express the tremendous gratitude expressed in your gift.

“The potted plant to adorn our front desk area is a great reminder of the hard work of the behavioral health team and also brightens the space tremendously,” she said.

“Thank you so very much for the time, effort and energy that went into these gifts. Thank you for thinking of us. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.”

________

Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *