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Pandemic Heroes: awards program taking nominations to recognize those making an impact

Click to play video: 'Ontario Shores launches Pandemic Heroes awards program' Ontario Shores launches Pandemic Heroes awards program
Ontario Shores has launched a joint campaign with the Canadian Mental Health Association to recognize those who have stepped up during the pandemic. Brittany Rosen has more. – May 7, 2021

Numerous mental health organizations have joined together in an effort to to recognize those who have stepped up during the pandemic.

The Pandemic Heroes — Standing Up for Mental Health is a national awards program in partnership with Ontario Shores, The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Ontario Shores is now accepting nominations for the following categories: Caring Partner, Community Leader, Essential Service Employer, Inspiring Youth, Healthcare Hero. Nominations are being accepted until August 27.

Read more: Oshawa’s Mission United supporting hundreds of individuals each week during coronavirus pandemic

Pandemic Heroes

In Durham, countless organizations have been working tirelessly to make a difference since the onset of the pandemic.

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Stephanie Skopyk is the lead nurse practitioner for CMHA Durham and Oshawa’s Back Door Mission, a hub for homeless individuals providing wrap-around services including food, mental health, crisis counselling, withdrawal management, medical treatment and more.

Skopyk sees roughly 40 clients per day. She says she has never worked as hard as she has during the pandemic.

“We all matter. I think some people get lost in the system, get lost in the shadows, get lost in their own grief and suffering,” she said.

“I want to see those people come back.”

While Skopyk says while the last year has been exhausting, her concern for Oshawa’s most vulnerable keeps her going.

Read more: ‘They have not been taken care of’: Oshawa group DUO provides overnight support to homeless

“If they’re not able to come in, we’ll go outside,” she said.

“If there’s somebody that I really need to connect with because I’m concerned, I will put that out to the team and we’ll work together to make sure a conversation can take place.”

Skopyk is one of many working tirelessly to provide support to Durham’s homeless community. Do Unto Others (DUO) has served as one of the only overnight warming centres in the region, keeping many from being on the streets at night.

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Volunteer Andrea Brum gets two hours of sleep each day. The mother of three works as a personal support worker and heads straight to DUO in Oshawa after her shifts.

“I wish I could stay home and sleep for six hours, five hours and do all these things with my family,” she said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Whitby Caremongers remain a bright spot during COVID-19 pandemic

“But right now, this is most important; these people are out there and don’t have family. (They) don’t have support at all.”

Founder Melissa Schneider is no less tired, constantly on-call for anyone who may need help, whether it be a ride or a rest.

“We’ve become that. From that person that just hands out and helps, to that hand up, to that safe place, to that home environment,” Schneider said.

“I’ve become mom. It’s like a family now.”

The pair alone provide a space for individuals to warm up, use the bathroom and grab a hot meal. They also drive individuals to medical appointments on a case-by-case basis.

Currently, both Schneider and Brum say they are using their personal income, which would normally be allocated to their personal food and rent, to pay for the space. The group is looking for monetary, food and clothing donations on a regular basis. Those who would like to contact DUO or arrange a donation drop-off time can contact the pair at duogroup2018@gmail.com.

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