Senior’s Situation Room by Dawn Ford – Seaway Senior Citizens Club & Mt Carmel Treatment Centre – FEB 9, 2015

DawnFord_SSRThe Seaway Seniors Citizens Club, 1010 Guy at Eleventh St. East, has an impressive line-up of activities. I happened to get one of their monthly Newsletters which gives an outline of schedule events such as Line Dancing, Tai Chi, Dominos, Cribbage, Bid Euchre, Exercise, Nordic Walk, Scrabble, Canasta, Darts, Mahjongg, Knit-Wits, Quilting, Upwords, Swedish Weaving, Choir and Whist. Lunch is served every Tuesday and they have other dinners on special occasions.. Sounds like there is something for everyone . Call 932-4969 for more info or e-mail at

My friend Marie and I always hit a ‘Hamburger Harry’s’ after an hour of Tai Chi to make sure we put back all the ounces we lost exercising. We saw two young policemen come in, or so we thought, and we remarked on how young everyone seemed to be as we are getting older. As they got closer, we saw a ‘Paramedic’ sign on the back of one of their jackets. Young Paramedics. As we were leaving, I thought I would talk with them to see if they knew my friend, Randy Lalonde who is a Paramedic. Then I noticed a badge on one of their arms that read ,’Student Paramedic’. Wow. Two young guys who were starting their career life training to be Paramedics. They were in training at the College. As I talked with them it was obvious that they were enthused about their new vocations. Here were two young men who would one day be there answering a call to help someone we love in distress or even maybe one of us someday. I was impressed with them and wished them well on their wonderful chosen path. Two young men getting ready to help our community. Doesn’t get any better than that.

How do we know what career to follow? I had an interesting time lately talking with a few young girls who are, at this point ,debating what they would do career-wise , “when we are all grownup”. They were really interesting and cute. When I was young, it seemed most girls chose secretarial work or went into nursing. My late brother Gerry was bitten by a dog when he was eight and I remember as if it was yesterday sitting beside him as a little five year old as he lay on his bed with his chest all bandaged up. I said to him, “Don’t worry, Berry, I will take care of you”. I guess I thought I would be his five year old nurse. Must have been an omen of what was to come.

You can have an IQ test and an Aptitude test to help find out what you might be best suited to do. Probably these tests are very helpful to young people starting out or others making a career change.

I had them many years ago in the eighties, long after I was already a nurse. My highest aptitude score said I was best suited to be an Air Plane Pilot and fly a jet. What a hoot!! I don’t have a mechanical or even technical bone in my body. I have no idea how I got that score. I think it was a mistake; a computer glitch of some kind. The planes would have been dropping out of the sky for sure. I wouldn’t even get on a plane if I knew I was flying it. Whenever the toner needed to be replaced in our Xerox machine at work, it was a big annoying and difficult chore for me and I had to get the secretary to do it so I wouldn’t mess it up. imagine me flying a plane? A jet? Ho! Ho! Ho! I don’t think so.

My lowest aptitude score was Undertaker. They were right on for that one. I once talked to a female undertaker and asked her how she could do that. She seemed amazed that I had asked and said that she couldn’t be a nurse; she would throw up. Can you imagine? Today they call them Funeral Directors and they do very necessary work. It is just that I know I couldn’t do it, then or now. Could you??

DF 38Mount Carmel House Treatment Centre

I am often asked why I don’t write much about working in Mount Carmel House Treatment Center for Drug and Alcohol Abuse and what we did there. Actually, when I was working there, some people would ask me how I could work there. That was because they didn’t understand what the center was all about. As I have mentioned before, some of the nicest people I have ever met went through the doors of that center which included not only the staff and volunteers but also residents and their families. The list of joys and sorrows, mostly joys, of my days there would be far too long to write in this column. However, I did come across a letter I had written to the Editor of the Glengarry News , dated August 7, 1996 entitled , ‘The Doors of Mount Carmel House’, after Mount Carmel House was so suddenly closed supposedly due financial problems. I think it sums it all up how I felt about my days working there for 14 years. Here is what I wrote:

‘To the Editor:

The doors of that old familiar mansion in St. Raphael’s were closed on June 7, 1996, approximately 15 years after they opened- doors that welcomed the lost, the suffering and often the homeless.

Mount Carmel House Treatment Centre was founded in 1981 by hard working people dedicated to helping those whose lives were ravaged by alcohol and drug abuse.

Donations of time, work, furniture, food and money helped a core group of volunteers turn a vacant building into a home.

The building could not have known at that time what miracles it would house. Once opened and friendly, the doors would never dream that one day they would close out those they once chose to welcome.

Mount Carmel House has in its 15 years of operation known difficult and seemingly impossible struggles. Yet it survived on the generosity and kindness of the public it served. It survived on the dedication of the staff and volunteers who could be counted on to do more than was asked of them. It survived because the essence of its spirit was people helping people, sometimes referred to as the Brother hood of Man.

Mount Carmel’s reputation in the addiction field was unsurpassed for the compassion, love and hope it offered to those in need. The halls and rooms, though often filled with tears and tragic tales of lives torn apart, were more often filled with fun, laughter and mostly gratitude for being alive in a safe place.

The residents felt a new hope for a full recovery. Many people have come through the doors scared , hesitant, and unsure. Many have left with new insight, new skills and new hope. Families of those addicted were also offered help, as they chose to accept it, for new directions in their lives.

The doors saw many staff and volunteers enter and leave over the years. Many drove through weather of all descriptions: rain, hail and snow. They were also to share those wonderful country days of sunshine in the spring and the awesome coloring of the fall. The house became a second home to many people caught up in the spirit of friendships and service.

No one I know has ever referred to Mount Carmel House as an agency; it was always called a home, once affectionately nicknamed ‘Le Chateau’ by many residents.

Perhaps one day there will be a new centre and it may bear the proud name of Mount Carmel House. I hope that it does so that all those miracles: battles won, lives saved, that took place in an old mansion in the tiny hamlet of St. Raphael’s will continue for those yet to come through those doors, even if they are new doors.

Dawn Ford’

Unfortunately, no new doors..yet. I am still waiting.

I found a cute get well card for a sick friend. Inside it said:

‘Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘If the chicken soup ain’t workin’, try straight-up gin instead.’

There are definite signs of spring. Shrove Tuesday, known as ‘Pancake Tuesday’, is February 17 , the day before lent starting the next day on Ash Wednesday. We already have Valentines in the stores, St. Patrick’s Day shamrocks and Easter bunnies as well. My cat Tiger, big big baby, is having more hairballs despite his medication for that, so it is always a sign for me. He is starting to shed his winter fur, I guess. Also, I hear there are flower blossoms in parts of British Columbia. And the best news of all is that my nephew is packing his trailer and will soon be heading to Florida. He will be staying close to where the Blue Jays are starting to arrive for spring training. Wow! Baseball soon! Lots of exhibition games coming up. I feel better already despite all the snowy cold frosty icy weather.

This tech stuff is going to drive me bonkers. It’s the recharging. I have to plug in to recharge my electric toothbrush, my cell phone, my e-cigarette, my computer battery if I want to take it anywhere and now my Tablet. I forget half the time to recharge them and get annoyed when they don’t work. Guess I am just tech dead. They won’t all me a ‘techy’. I hear that kids can handle this tech stuff better than a lot of adults. Ah, to be young again.

Here is a cute joke:

Mrs. Green lived in a two storey house together with an elderly widow. After not hearing from her for a few days, Mrs. Green got a bit nervous.

” John”, she called to her son, “do me a favour and go and find out how old Mrs. Robinson is.”

So six year old John went down the stairs and knocked on Mrs. Robinson’s door.

” So how is she? asked Mrs. Green when John came back up.

“How is she”? repeated John. “I have never seen her so mad in my life. ” She said it is none of your business how old she is.”

Have a good week, Dawn


  1. Interesting article Dawn.

    What concerns me is the burn-out factor in the first responders. It’s nice that young people are choosing to be paramedics, police officers, fire fighters, etc. But how many of them will be in those careers in five or ten years?

  2. Dawn…..What a joy it was to have met you when I went through “the doors” of Mt. Carmel. I know, I know that I was a handful for you guys Mac, Shirley, Danny, Linda, Elaine, Walter, Shirley (the cook) and the many, many more that set me on the road to recovery. Lots of laughs, lots of tears but always LOTS of love.

    John MacDonald, Niagara Falls

  3. Dawn there are a number of young people today going into the health care field because that is where the work is but not all places. One of my neighbors took his nursing degree (a man) and couldn’t find full time permanent work here in Ottawa and left for the US. Many go in as cops and firemen unlike the past. The pay is very high and that is what people go for. Many will not stay in those jobs for long because of the terrible stress involved these days and many crack with the stress.

  4. John. Thank you. I remember a fine young man coming through those ‘doors’ with a great sense of humour and I haven’t changed my opinion over the years. Yes, it was a place of love, fun and tears and a great place to start a recovery and also to go to work everyday

    Jules and Hugger1..The stress level today in life in general is so high, so it must be even worse for those in the professional helping sector. Lots of wonderful people out there dedicated to being there for all of us when we need them and I think we need to applaud them every chance we get.

  5. I just can’t believe that it was almost 30 years ago since those “doors” were opened for me. WOW!!! Only thanks to people like you Dawn.

  6. Hi Dawn, it takes very special people to be a nurse, doctor, paramedic, etc. and the hell that these people go through is unbelievable especially nowadays. Yes the stress and pressures are horrendous and many cannot continue in their jobs because of what they see and do on the job. The world is sick today in more ways than one and it takes very special people to cope. You and Mary are very special people to me here on CFN. All the best to you Dawn and Mary and keep up the great spirits.

  7. Jules – thank you. It is because of support from readers like you that make the column worthwhile. Also, Jamie, my Editor has been so terrific and encouraging. I try to make the column a bit of advocacy and a bit of fun. mean I am 30 years older?? Seems like yesterday sometimes. You deserve all the credit for your recovery. You worked hard and later came back to help the center using your carpentry skills. And thank you for bringing so much fun to the staff and helping our job be a bit easier.

  8. Dawn Jamie is a great asset to Cornwall and beyond and without him people would not know about a lot of truths going on in and around Cornwall. Jamie is a good man and that is the truth.

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