The holiday season now in top gear, the Elmira District Ministerial Association will join in the festivities by hosting its annual Christmas Choirs and Carols evening on Sunday night.
The event takes place December 4 at 7 p.m. at Gale Presbyterian Church in Elmira. Freewill offerings will be accepted in support of the Woolwich Counselling Centre (WCC).
The event, hosted by the association for more than a decade now, will see four local choirs take the stage.
As they get back on track after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, organizers have scaled back the event somewhat, said Richard McFadden, the music director at Gale Presbyterian.
“Not quite the extravaganza it has been in the past, but it is community. It is Christmas, and funds are going to the Woolwich Counselling Centre,” he said. This year they decided not to include the usual mass choir as a precaution related to ongoing concerns about COVID-19.
“The mass choir is of course the highlight with everyone singing together, but no, not this year.”
That said, McFadden is looking forward to the churches coming together under one roof to share their musical pieces and unite.
The funds raised are going to the Woolwich Counselling Centre, which supports the community through its main office in Elmira and satellite location at the Wellesley health centre.
WCC executive director Amanda Wood-Atkinson says this year she and her staff have seen increased demand and people accessing their services. The funds raised at Sunday’s event will go toward subsidizing counselling sessions so they are affordable to everyone of all income levels, as well as paying for the free-to-access community education workshops.
“We always want to make sure that cost is not a barrier for anyone coming to the centre, so this allows us to do that,” said Wood-Atkinson.
So far this year the centre has provided 1,360 child and youth therapy sessions, 1,950 individual therapy sessions, 290 senior therapy sessions and 160 family and couple therapy sessions.
The centre offers workshops for children, families, parents, seniors, and individuals. Especially popular are the parenting workshops such as learning how to help children strengthen their emotion regulation skills.
Since 2019, the amount of service hours provided by the centre, including counselling sessions, groups, workshops and outreach activities, has grown significantly from 3,024 in 2019 to 5,095 in 2022.
“We have seen more people recognize the importance of maintaining mental emotional wellness, so many more people are reaching out,” said Beth Mason, the centre’s program director, adding that people have been recognizing the impact of COVID.
“I think it rattled people to go, ‘well, we need to take better care of our mental, emotional wellness.’ So, definitely seeing people wanting to take a bit more of a proactive approach.”
Shweta Satyan, the awareness and engagement coordinator, says she believes COVID has also impacted the awareness of mental health in the community.
“From a fundraising perspective, we’re seeing our community is a lot more enthusiastic about coming together to raise funds for mental health. We’ve had several community-generated fundraisers where we haven’t done the asking, with a group together to raise money for us,” she said.
The trio encourages everyone to come out to Sunday’s event.
“Come and enjoy the music. It’s a gift to our community, and to also recognize the importance of connecting with others in mental wellness,” said Wood-Atkinson.
Gale Presbyterian is located at 10 Barnswallow Dr.