“Oh wow, I can’t believe it’s still here 40 years later!” Jeff’s face lit up as he walked into the gymnasium at Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health Centre. Now in his fifties, Jeff hadn’t set foot in 285 Benjamin Road since he left the residential program in the early 1980s when he was just 14.
Although many Lutherwood students leave with lasting memories of their time here, few of them have one as visible and tied to its legacy as Jeff does. He recalled painting the large lion mascot with his former teacher, Jim Ferney. “Jim was a fantastic mentor. He always wanted to help get us on the straight and narrow path.”
Jim knew Jeff was a troublemaker, but also noticed that he liked to draw. “I felt that there was no end to my troubles in life, so Jim got me to put my mind and art talent to good use. It occupied me for several months and kept me out of trouble. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Today, Jeff still draws on three years of learnings from Lutherwood. While currently caring for a loved one in hospital, “one of the nurses complimented me on how well I made the hospital bed! I told them ‘Hooksie’ (former night shift worker Agnes Hooks) taught me back in 1980. When she imparts some wisdom on you, you never forget it!”
After looking over his lion handywork on the gym walls, Jeff poured over old yearbooks, still able to rhyme off the names and stories of classmates and staff. “I don’t know how Lutherwood does it, but they only hire incredible people,” Jeff smiled, looking through the photos. “My first year I didn’t want to be here. I did everything I could to try to get out. But eventually I learned to trust the process and these kind people with my life. I’m so glad I did because if I hadn’t, I might have ended up in prison. That’s definitely the direction I was heading.”
"I trusted these kind people with my life. I’m so glad I did because if I hadn’t, I might have ended up in prison." — Jeff
Today, Jeff has three children, two grandchildren and a career in healthcare and nutrition, currently working as a Nutrition Associate at Hamilton Health Sciences. “Lutherwood is a great opportunity to get where you need to be in life. Take it from me. If you’re feeling hopeless, you can go to any staff member and ask for help and you will get it. It’s never too late to change and get on the right path.”