2016 is just behind us, and the end of a full year gives us at Shalem an opportunity to have a look back, gather our recollections and stories, look at some numbers, and assess the year. We are still completing that process of annual review. But one of the themes that stands out involves even further indications of growth at Shalem. I have written about Shalem’s growth previously—in our annual reports, and in earlier issues of Shalem’s Digest and Networker. I find it truly remarkable that I am in a position to reflect on new growth yet again.
Consider two areas of dramatic growth at Shalem in 2016.
Our Counselling Centres in Hamilton and Bowmanville experienced a 34% increase in therapy session activity from 2015 to 2016. The number of sessions that we conducted grew from 2,244 in 2015 to 3,037 in 2016. Our therapists worked with 623 clients in 2016, compared to 469 in 2015 and 391 in 2014.
Then consider our Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) and Counselling Assistance Plan for Students (CAPS). Last year, 8,074 households across Ontario were eligible to receive free, anonymous counselling supports from local, Master’s-degree level Christian therapists through CAP and CAPS. 659 households took advantage of that, and they used a total of 3,395 counselling sessions.
In 2009 CAP began with five churches from one denomination. In 2016 CAP and CAPS together consisted of 65 sites—60 churches from six denominations, and five schools. Early in 2017 we were pleased to add Stratford Christian Reformed Church and Redeemer Christian High School in Ottawa to our CAP and CAPS family, bringing our total site partners to 67.
What is this growth saying? For me, at least three things.
The first is that clearly Shalem’s services, including the ones I haven’t spoken about— WrapAround, Restorative Practice, RE-create and Sunshine from Darkness—are meeting a real community ministry need. They are connecting in some way. We are deeply gratified by this affirmation, even as we continue to try to improve what we do to make it even better.
Secondly, resources are needed to sustain this growth. I am most pleased that the Shalem Mental Health Foundation, a separately incorporated and governed charitable organization, is in the process of hiring a Development Director to help strengthen even further the financial resources needed to support these vital ministries. Look for an announcement from the Foundation in April, 2017.
Lastly, the huge increase in our counselling activity was putting heavy pressure on our existing office space, to such a degree that we were on the verge of referring new clients out, because our limited space could not accommodate more. Thank God that, just in time, a generous Shalem supporter has stepped forward and purchased a highly suitable office space on our behalf. While the space is double the square footage of our previous office, our rent costs remain the same, and we have entered into a Lease to Own Agreement with the donor. This provision by the donor, and its timing, simply takes my breath away. Our new space is at 875 Main Street East, Hamilton, and we moved in on February 10, 2017. Do drop by and see us!
The bottom line: God is good. God, through his care and his people, is providing for our needs, even as we seek to serve as God’s hand and feet with the people we are privileged to walk alongside of on their journeys toward healing. It is a privilege to be invited into spaces of deep pain and healing—and there to encounter the God of living hope and the extraordinary courage of people.
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Shalem’s Executive Director