Dickinson's Christmas project provides children with gifts

Dickinson Mental Health Center (DMHC) is looking for the community's support for the Second Annual Pat Work Memorial Christmas Project. The project is designed to provide Christmas gifts to less fortunate children who otherwise would not be receiving the Christmas they deserve.In 2009, DMHC provided 117 children with gifts. This year, they have 156 referrals for children who are in need of having a better Christmas.“We take referrals from our staff who are working with families in the community,” said Heidi Thomas, chief fiscal officer of DMHC. “We don't use any names; everything is completely confidential.”Thomas created a database, which stores all of the referral numbers and includes the age, sex, likes and interests and clothing size of children to help match them to an appropriate gift. “What we do is, we put out what we call an 'Angel Tree', we do it all electronically,” Thomas said. “We send out a tree that will have all of the referrals on it and people will call or e-mail a response saying which referral number they want to buy a gift for.“We are really hoping to reach out to the community this year to see if anyone wants to pick a child off of the tree.”The project is named after Pat Work, who was a licensed clinical social worker, who dedicated her career at Dickinson to the children she served. She was with the DHMC for 26 years and passed away in December of 2003.“She'd always make sure the kids she worked with had gifts for Christmas,” Thomas said. “She left a lasting impact on many of our staff and we named it after her to honor her.”Thomas hopes the project will grow every year and reach out to more people in the community as a way of giving back to all of the families DHMC serves. For more on this story, see the Nov. 5 edition of The Daily Press.