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Child trauma centre bills clients based on ability to pay

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Cathy Dobson

Sometimes giving back is part of the healing.

Twenty-five-year-old Chelsea Caraher has battled anxiety for most of her life and bounced from counsellor to counsellor looking for help.

Finally she found solutions at a local agency called Life’s Seasons Care and Support.

It’s not that uncommon of a story, except that Caraher has returned to Sarnia after earning a commerce degree and is voluntarily raising thousands of dollars to support the agency that helped when she needed it.

Unlike most local counselling centres, Life’s Seasons does not require its clients to pay unless they are able.

They bill using a sliding scale based on ability to pay so, as demand rises, donations and fundraising are increasingly critical to keep the centre afloat.

Co-founder Annette Miner is a child and youth care practitioner and her goal is to specialize in counselling and trauma care for children.

In 2012, she and husband Jim Miner converted their garage into a counselling centre and she began counselling all who asked for it, regardless of their ability to pay.

“The first year in that little office, we had 2,000 appointments and about half paid,” Miner said. “Payment is based on an honour system.  We provide the care our clients need and take them on their word about how much they can pay.”

Soon, Life’s Seasons opened a second office in Petrolia.

This month, the centre has grown again with the opening of a much larger office in Sarnia at 805 Christina St. N.  Offices in Bright’s Grove and Petrolia have closed.

Miner’s vision for the agency involves the use of sensory-based, trauma-informed counselling. If a client requests it, faith-based counselling is available.

“Part of the dream is that when clients can’t pay we will always be able to say someone else has paid for it,” Miner said.

“So far, with donations, that has worked.”

Caraher said the agency that helped her can now benefit from her skills in commerce and event planning.

Last year, she launched Loving Louder, an awareness-raising event that generated $7,400. The evening features testimonials from the agency’s clients, live performances, music, food, raffles and a silent auction.

This year on Nov. 16, Loving Louder will be held at the Sarnia Riding Club. Caraher hopes to sell all 140 tickets.

“I’m doing this because I want to erase the stigma about mental illness and raise awareness about the help that is here in Sarnia,” she said.

“Our world has changed and we all deal with pressures that can cause anxiety and depression.

“I want people to know they don’t have to be home alone. There’s a community here for them.”

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Loving Louder, fundraiser for Life’s Seasons Care & Support

WHERE: Sarnia Riding Club

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 16;  6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

TICKETS: $20 via emailing [email protected] or at the door if available.

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