CIUSSS social worker opens Giving Shop to support children in specialized schools
The day of Montreal’s first big snowfall in November, a child at the Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton Schools sat indoors during morning recess because he had no gloves or boots. His teacher spotted him and knew just what to do.
She turned to The Giving Shop, the brainchild of Social Worker Jennifer Grier.
Last spring, Ms. Grier, aware that some students lacked the clothes they needed, started up a clothing collection among her colleagues. Then she opened up a little nook next to her office where kids could show up in a casual setting and pick up items they needed.
There’s no fuss, no formality, and most of all, no stigma.
“Students learn that needing help is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Ms. Grier, a member of the Rehabilitation team of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. “I can’t fix all the injustices in the world, but I can provide a warm coat to a student in need. It’s a tangible way to help, especially knowing the cost of living is so high for a lot of people.”
“I wanted the kids to know there’s a community of giving that’s here to help,” she adds.
The initiative addresses a reality for some children at the school, who live with motor, visual, hearing and language impairments. Parents who care for a child living with a disability can have lower revenues due to the added demands that caregiving puts on their time. Ms. Grier says some students at school express worries about money.
The Giving Shop offers a way to help. After putting out a call for donations last spring, Ms. Grier received shoes and clothing from the Rehabilitation team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, physiotherapists and other CIUSSS health professionals who work at the schools. The education staff who are part of the English Montreal School Board also pitched in.
Since then, Ms. Grier has created a welcoming spot on the second floor of the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce facility where students can feel at ease picking up a hoodie, a snowsuit, or a pair of running shoes. The spot has a full-length mirror, making the children feel like they’re shopping for themselves.
“The kids are developing skills. They get the power of making their own decisions, and in a safe space that they know so well.”Emily Lecker, Program Manager at our CIUSSS for the Rehabilitation Program in Specialized Schools.
Ms. Lecker applauds Ms. Grier for the initiative. “Jennifer saw a need and found a way to meet it in a respectful and non-judgmental way. She is such a wonderful advocate for the needs of all her clients. She always goes above and beyond in her role as a social worker.”
Children like Jason, a Grade 7 student at the Mackay Centre School, picked up a snowsuit this fall to replace his old one, which had become threadbare. “This one’s bigger and newer. It feels more comfortable,” the 11-year-old said while visiting The Giving Shop in early December. “I wear it every day.”
As for the boy who missed recess in November because he lacked cold-weather gear, he went to visit Ms. Grier and her Giving Shop that very morning. By lunchtime, he was outdoors in the schoolyard, playing with his friends.