Monthly Archives: December 2019

Nora’s Story

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. And the holiday has extra meaning for me.

I’m one of eleven children. A big, happy family. And in such a big family, our passions and abilities are a way to stand out.

In my family, I have always been the reader.

An early reader. When I was just three years old, my brother used to carry me in his arms as we wandered around our village so I could read things for people who never learned how, or who could no longer see. I’d read the newspaper, books, and important letters.

I’ll tell you a secret – my brother charged people 25 cents. And he didn’t give me a penny!

When I started school, I was really looking forward to lots of reading. But in the first week, as I joined my new friends playing jump rope, something unexpected happened. I discovered I couldn’t skip. Instead, I was jumping up and down like a frog.

It was odd. But other than that, everything seemed normal. And before long, my family moved from Guyana to Canada and settled in Toronto.

Fast forward to my early twenties. While I was on a sailing trip with some friends, I noticed a guy in a wheelchair being helped onto a boat. I told my friends that I didn’t know how I’d cope if that happened to me. They just laughed and said, “Nora, you would just boss everyone around!”

It wasn’t long after this that my life began to change. I started having more and more difficulty doing normal things, like climbing hills and stairs. Then I started falling for no reason.

Just before Christmas 1988, a neurologist diagnosed “inclusion body myositis,” which is an inflammatory muscle disease.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.

By the next morning, I started thinking: well, this isn’t going to go away. And that as someone who is fiercely independent, I would have real difficulty with becoming more and more dependent on others. I would have to find a way to both accept this fact and protect my dignity.

Two things made this possible.

One was discovering LOFT. By chance, someone mentioned LOFT to me.

And LOFT invited me to live in one of their properties, the J.W. Green apartments. My one-bedroom flat has been my home for 26 years. And I couldn’t be happier.

The building is clean and well maintained. We have a beautiful backyard. And the residents have become a kind of extended family – we do things together, including celebrating Diwali in the fall.

When I first moved in, I used a walker. As you can see, I am now in a wheelchair. And I have to tell you: as my condition progressed, the LOFT workers have been amazing. They always make time for me, and ensure I have what I need – like the electric opener for my front door. Mine broke and I was worried about how I would replace it because they’re expensive. And LOFT came through.

I said two things helped me adjust to my new life.

The second was my family. My wonderfully loving – and very large – family.

We forget that it’s not just the disabled person who has to come to terms with this change. Disability has an impact on the entire family.

When they came to visit me in my LOFT apartment, and saw that I was happy, they were happy, and relieved to know that I would be safe and cared for throughout my life. And as they relaxed, so did I.

This Christmas, 31 years after my diagnosis, I’m thinking about the family I was born into, and the family I’ve created thanks to LOFT. Because of LOFT I am also able to be a contributing member of society and my community.

All of you are part of the LOFT family. And your generosity helps people like me live with dignity.

For this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Andrew’s Story

We came to Canada from Ghana when I was 9 years old. And I was just a regular Canadian kid until I hit my teens. At 16, I began staying up for days on end.

My mum took me to the doctor, who said I was bi-polar and prescribed medication.

When the meds made me feel like a zombie, I rebelled. I didn’t take the meds regularly, and instead of stabilizing, I got worse. Fought with my family, and dropped out of school.

And even worse: I was hospitalized a number of times.

So, here’s what I discovered about mental health – it takes something powerful to shift us off the path of self-destruction.

For me, that powerful thing was LOFT.

Antonia, my worker, has a way of explaining things that make sense to me. She made sure I got the right medication – and a place to live in a LOFT building where I was safe and cared for.

She also encouraged me to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d always been fascinated by videos and had taught myself to produce them. I knew I wanted to start a video production company, but how?

As I talked with Antonia, I realized that I needed a portfolio. What if I approached a local business and offered to produce a video for them – for free? I did, they said yes, and were blown away by the result. They even offered to pay me!

Everything seemed to be going my way. But there are bumps on every journey toward mental health.

Two years ago, I had a manic episode – a bad one. So bad that Antonia urged me to check into hospital.

But, instead of taking her advice, I decided I should go on the CBC program, The Dragon’s Den – to talk about my video production company.

When I arrived at the CBC building, a protest was going on. As I stood in the lobby, I was more interested in the big screen and how it worked than I was in the protestors. But CBC security thought I was part of the demonstration and asked me to leave.

My response was vulgar and violent. The police were called and as I struggled with them, I hurt one of the officers.

What happened next? I went to jail. Then back into hospital. And this time, my doctor recommended something different – electroconvulsive therapy. I had twelve treatments.

And it worked!

For the first time in years, I felt like myself again.

And since then I’ve been doing much, much better.

With Antonia’s help, I’ve taken ownership of my mental health.

Now, I’m living a normal life. Reconnecting with my family. And building my business. In fact, I’m producing some videos for LOFT – so that they can share the real-life stories of people like me – with people like you.

My life story is just beginning. And the first chapter was about me transitioning from a miserable, confused teen to a young man with a bright future.

And I couldn’t have done it without Antonia and LOFT. And people like you who support LOFT’s life-changing services.

In closing, I hope you’ll forgive me for one small advertisement for my services: yes, I am taking new clients.

Thank you.

29th Annual Home for the Holidays

The 29th Annual Home for the Holidays Benefit Concert was held on Monday, December 2, 2019. LOFT Community Services provides housing and supports for more than 5,300 – youth, adults, and seniors across Toronto York Region and Simcoe County. Our clients, live with the most complex mental health, physical health, and addictions challenges. We provide compassionate support so they can regain their dignity.

Two LOFT Clients courageously shared their stories with the concert audience that evening.

Click the links to learn how clients Andrew and Nora have been able to use LOFT services to change their lives.

Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets or made a donation towards the concert.

EVENT SPONSORS

MAJOR SPONSOR

SUSTAINING SPONSORS

SOUND EQUIPMENT SUPPLIER

PRINT SPONSOR

LIGHTING SUPPLIER

STAGE PRODUCTION SPONSOR

Ryerson School of Performance

VENUE SUPPLIER

IN-KIND SPONSORS

Hotel Victoria
Nick Nasr and Elegant Moving Systems
Peter Hideg & Advantage Electric
With special thanks to Amato Pizza and Julian Irwin Designs

Thank you also to:
• Micah Barnes, Artistic Director
• Christopher Bracket, Stage Manager
• Joshua Capodagli, Technical Director
• Bill Corcoran, Stage Decorator
• Peter Fleming, Production and Operations Manager
• Cathy Inkster & Berely Jarabata
• St. James Guild of Change Ringers
• Sanjay Sankat, Technical Coordinator
• Our hosts Kelly Walker and Tabby Johnson
• All of our performers
• The volunteers, who work behind the scenes to decorate, greet and support our guests.

Here are some photos from the incredible night.