It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas at The Well Community’s weekly worship service last Thursday evening when members gathered for The Well’s annual Christmas party. Tables were decorated with red tablecloths and festive napkins. Volunteers from three area churches, Cliff Temple Baptist Church, Kessler Park United Methodist Church and All Saints Dallas, passed out plates piled high with turkey slices, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, golden rolls and homemade desserts—a meal provided by the churches and Norma’s Cafe in the Bishop Arts area. The Christmas choir from Cliff Temple, including Well members who attend there, sang selections from their Christmas program as well as familiar carols.
In one corner of the newly remodeled fellowship hall, beside a Christmas tree, members posed for pictures with Santa Claus, who passed out red and white stockings filled with gift bags provided through donations from local churches and participants in 12 Days Oak Cliff. Thanks to the generosity of many, active members of The Well received a $50 Walmart gift card, providing them the opportunity to do their own Christmas shopping or be able to choose their own items.
“[This party] has been a blessing,” said Freddie, a member who was invited to The Well by some friends several years ago. He explained how much he enjoyed the worship music and the night’s teaching by Brent McDougal, pastor of Cliff Temple. Volunteer Dawn Camp stopped by the table with her arms full of slices of homemade apple, pumpkin and chocolate pies. Freddie couldn’t decide between apple and pumpkin, so Dawn gave him both.
Dawn is a member of Cliff Temple Church and also serves on the board of the newly formed Well Auxiliary. She decided to serve at the Christmas party when one of The Well members who attends her church told her, “You’re my best friend.” Touched, Dawn realized that Well members who struggle with mental illnesses are like family to each other, and to her.
Indeed, most of the members attend the Christmas party and other Well events because they feel welcome. “The people are nice,” said Debra, a member who’s been part of The Well for two years. Her friend Lennie, who sat across the table, agreed. “It’s the people,” she said. “God really has blessed me.”
John, a veteran member of The Well, planned to give the photo of him with Santa to his grandchildren and the stocking filled with toothpaste, razors, shampoo and other personal care items to his son. Last year, he gave the stocking he received at the Christmas party to his mother. “They take care of me, so I want to [help them] too,” he says.
The Well’s Christmas party is a highlight of the season for most members, who often are not welcome elsewhere. In fact, Christmas is one of the most challenging times of the year for men and women who deal with mental illnesses, especially those who are homeless or without family.
The Well members take care of one another during this season, which can often feel exhausting and alienating because of the pressure to socialize and the change in routine. They help each other cope with the loneliness and isolation during the holiday season with encouragement to practice good self-care, especially this time of year.
Here are some of the tips they share:
Find a few others who don’t have people to be with and plan to get together.
Keep a regular schedule as much as possible, including getting adequate sleep.
Be sure to get out and be physically active.
As much as possible, eat well-balanced meals.
Seek support from people who understand the challenges of living with a mental illness.
You can help as well!
A small commitment has a great impact on the lives of those who deal with mental illness in Oak Cliff. We are always looking for new volunteers to serve at our events and donors to support us financially. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts.