CMHA running drive-through barbecue for mental illness awareness week

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Get ready to walk, drive or bike your way to a free barbecue lunch and more knowledge surrounding mental health.

The Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will be holding its annual Community Take-out Barbecue on Wednesday, October 6 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at their office on Portage Avenue. The barbecue is being held in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness week, which runs from October 3 to 9 and is part of Mental Health Awareness Month throughout October. The drive-through barbecue will be handing out bagged lunches and information about mental health awareness as members of the public enter the driveway from the Portage Avenue side and exit onto Second Street. CMHA Fort Frances’ director of services Pauline Hyatt said the event is to help foster community connections and is keeping with COVID safety regulations.

“Our barbecue is a drive-up, walk-up event and we’ll be giving out a bag that has a burger, chips, pop and then some mental illness awareness information so we can reduce the stigma,” Hyatt explained.

“The campaign this fall at CMHA is ‘No Health Without Mental Health,’ that’s the slogan, and it’s true.. We’ve come a long way but we want to keep letting people know and to understand more about mental illness and ways we can make things better for people in the community, as well as tell them what services are offered. Not everybody is aware of that.”

Hyatt said that last year’s event, the first to adopt the drive-through format due to the pandemic, was received very well by the community.

“They had a tremendous turnout last year,” Hyatt said.

“We’re hoping this year to even improve on that. Again, it’s just sharing some information and showing that there are people here who care, even though we’re not gathering. We’re very excited to be able to hold the event. You’re limited when we have a pandemic, but we still want to say, ‘we’re here.’ Come on by, walk, bike, drive, have a free burger and get some informations and see some smiling faces of people who care. We want people to know we are here.”

Of course, any event takes planning and organization, and CMHA has a dedicated team that helps to ensure everything goes according to plan for the drive-through barbecue.

“We always have such tremendous support from the staff who want to volunteer and help out,” Hyatt said.

“Whether it be the gathering of the information, the preparing of the bags of food and getting all of that ready, the person who is running the barbecue or just gathering everything together. Even making sure we’re directing traffic, because we want everyone to enter and exit in one direction so we don’t have any traffic jams and do it as safely as possible.”

It’s sure to be a busy day full of food and learning, so if anyone hasn’t yet settled on what to have for lunch on October 6, keep CMHA and their free Community Take-Out Barbecue as they get ready for another successful event.

“They did well last year, and we’re hoping to have even more bags go out this year,” Hyatt said.