I’m very happy to invite you to Shalem’s 60th anniversary celebration this June. We will be gathering In Hamilton’s Gage Park Greenhouse space for a dinner celebration on June 1st to share stories about Shalem’s impact on our community, working to restore hope.
Our vision was cast by a group of post WW2 Dutch immigrants in the hopes of building a Canadian and Christian psychiatric hospital. In 1963, Salem Christian Sanatorium Inc. was founded, and given approval by the provincial government to build an 18-bed psychiatric hospital. You’ll notice our name and structure is remarkably different today – that group of founders experienced something that we experienced recently with the pandemic. Our community needs change in the service of providing mental health care – those founders discovered that the social trends were veering away from residential care. They instead created a vast network of counselling offices across Ontario, embedding mental health in 30+ Ontario communities.
Our name has evolved from Salem Christian Sanatorium Inc, to Salem Christian Mental Health Association, before finally becoming Shalem Mental Health Network. We’ve kept the root of our name as its significance continues to be meaningful to us. It is the Hebrew word for perfect peace and restoration – the goal of so many that we serve.
Over the decades, Shalem has worked hard at being a supportive partner to related agencies. In the 1990’s, under the leadership of Al Driese, we supported other local Christian mental health initiatives. One of them was Homestead Christian Homes – now a well-known force of change in the field of affordable housing called Indwell.
Mark Vander Vennen cast a new vision for Salem when he became ED in 2004, wanting Shalem to be a learning centre for mental health professionals and to offer community programs in addition to counselling. Shalem birthed several innovative programs including WrapAround, Restorative Practice, our Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) and adopted RE-create Outreach Art Studio into the agency.
Like our wider community, the COVID19 pandemic’s arrival in 2020 forever changed the delivery of mental health care in our field. Demand increased significantly, and we were able to respond to meet the demand and offer care virtually. During this time, additional changes occurred as Mark retired and I became the new Executive Director with a mandate of sustainability and sharing Shalem’s programs with new communities.
The challenges and successes in our journey as an organization have transformed into a culture of creativity and grace within our team – and into the care of thousands of people through innovative programs embedded in our communities.
Following His mission of compassion, we journey with those we serve – walking alongside individuals, couples, families, churches, schools and organizations. We walk with hope through their stories of isolation and stigma, the darkness of mental illness or the painful conflict that seeks to separate. God enables us to walk in these dark places – it continues to be a privilege to be the bearers of this hope.
We look forward to gathering with you as we hear stories from Shalem’s past and present and as we cast our vision forward for the work yet to come.
Please consider joining us June 1st as we celebrate these 60 years.
$15 Dessert Ticket: includes non-alcoholic drinks + desserts. Dessert is served at 7:30 pm as the formal Celebration starts. (We will have our Annual General Meeting at 6 pm for members)
Jennifer Bowen, M.Div., RMFT, RP, is the Executive Director of Shalem Mental Health Network.