Mental health first aid kits (Photo courtesy of Becky Turland)

Petersburg Mental Health Services have been busy this year giving out flowers to those at the forefront of the community’s pandemic response and mental health kits by the hundreds to kids and adults throughout the community. The non-profit has used emergency grant money to spread a message of gratitude.

Mental Health’s officer manager Becky Turland said the non-profit initially started this year with a distribution to 12 community members who received flowers and gift bags.

“Our people that are making some of the big decisions and doing a lot of our community works, a lot of stress is going in and witnessing and seeing it and feeling it first hand for ourselves going through it, so we kind of wanted just to show our appreciation to these people,” Turland said, adding, “and from there was key people that we started with and from there we thought’d be kind of a fun idea or project to show it to our community and to show that we’re all tied together and there is a lot to be grateful for even during the pandemic that we’re in.”

Those initial 12 recipients were each asked to name two others in the community to receive flowers and the program grew as each recipient named others. Turland said so far 146 people have been surprised with flowers and there are about 55-60 people still on the list.

“The isolation for a lot of people has been really hard,” said PMHS rehab associate Alex Helms said. She and Turland also got their children involved with the project. “It’s been fun to gift people something that wasn’t expected and spreading some joy. The children participated. It was really neat for them also to be able to give and not expect anything back but also telling them how much the community does for us. So each of these people that we were gifting to had a story to share and it was really fun.”

The project captured photos of recipients in an online slide show and a local artist is also expected to portray the community connections from the project. But it’s not the only giving that the non profit has focused on this year. Kids and adults throughout the community have received yellow bags with gifts from local businesses, treats and instructions for staying healthy and reducing stress. Turland and Helms have put together hundreds of these mental health first aid kits.

“So it was kind of a pulling of a bunch of different ideas and thoughts of needing to bring awareness of our mental health showing that we are grateful for a multiple array of people and the services they’re providing and also with children letting them know that there are things that we can do currently that can help,” Turland explained. “So even if a quarter of the people look through that paperwork, I think our mission was accomplished.”

She estimated they’ve given out about 1,300 bags.

Helms explained that the gifts are different depending on where they’re distributed.

“So the elementary kids would have some extra in there about designing your own mask and how to properly wear your ask and how to wash your hands properly,” Helms said. “And then let’s say when we handed out to the hospital, there’s some information on there on compassion fatigue and grounding and meditation and things that we can do to kind of stay centered right now.”

PMHS has used six different funding sources for its giving programs, including coronavirus emergency grant money for local non-profits from the borough government. They’ve also taken on the application process for the borough’s child care assistance grants. That program makes monthly payments of as much as 600-700 dollars a month through the end of the year for both pre-school and day care. Turland said local families have used that support.

“So for October we were able to cover a majority of the need,” Turland said. “What came in as the need we rounded it down to the nearest hundred and we were able to cover most of that. However the need that was in September was higher than what we could do so we did a formula and we basically paid about 90 percent of the ask, of the need. So it was a huge help and with our economy and I could say that’s one of the best decisions our assembly has passed for our community right now, as a whole I think.”

Petersburg Mental Health has also have handed out around 60 hygiene kits in the community and have been making food pantry items available for outside pick up. They’re planning other programs, like a family dinner and activity project to help families stay connected and a winter sock drive.