Board Member SOSMWC
Sharon really wanted representation on the board from outside Penticton, and she found me. She related her story and her hopes for the organization being able to do more throughout the region. Her commitment was inspiring.
She was lively, bold, and full of spirit. Even as her health failed, she was determined to continue with her purpose. A purpose that we will carry on.
The loss of a person so memorable and unique, is deeply felt by all of our staff, and the board.
We, the staff and board of the South Okanagan Mental Wellness Society mourn the loss of our former leader and advocate.
Her vision inspired us all to not just join in, but feel we, each one of us, could make a difference in someone’s life who faced mental health challenges. She put her heart into her work here, and she forged what exists today. We will continue to honour her, as we carry on.
Denise Gauthier, Treasurer
Board Member SOSMWC
I had the good fortune to work with and learn from Sharon over the last two plus years. She was an amazing woman and a true warrior for individuals and families affected by mental health concerns and illness. Her generous gifts of energy, time and knowledge were shared with all of us in need. She will be greatly missed at the South Okanagan Mental Wellness Centre. Rest in Peace My Friend.
Interim Chair SOSMWC
I was very fortunate to have met Sharon and the great staff at the South Okanagan Similkameen Mental Wellness Centre/Society (“MWC”) during a time that my family needed help. My son had been diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 18 and he was being shuffled from child and youth mental health to adult mental health. He was very scared and worried about what his future would hold.
When he first met Sharon, I had to laugh. My son is about 6' 6", a tall, big guy and Sharon was so tiny. Sharon immediately made my son feel at ease and had a calming effect on him. She also used her wit to make my son laugh. She was evaluating him and told him she wished she had a light sabre like Luke Skywalker. Sharon even made like she was holding one and put it over each shoulder of my son and said “may the force be with you, you are healed”. She told him she wished it was that simple and she would be so pleased to do that with every client. However, it was up to my son to do the work to get better, and having all of his supports in place. Sharon also made Derek laugh when she told a story of being able to take on some big guys. Some guys were being escorted by the police to be placed on the ward. Apparently, they were putting up quite a fight. When Sharon saw what was happening she grabbed a pair of pyjamas, made them feel very calm and told them they needed to go to sleep and they all said ok, took their meds and went to bed. Sharon said good night. Sharon then set my son up with a peer support worker from the MWC. He felt for the first time in his life that he was able to speak with someone that totally understood him. His peer support worker taught him ways to cope with his new diagnosis and his daily life. I know he will always be grateful to Sharon for choosing such a great peer supporter.
As a parent, I felt helpless when my son was first diagnosed. I was referred to the family support group meetings, run by the MWC. The meetings were an absolute life saver at that time in my life. I knew I had to learn more and gain experience from other family members who had been through this. It felt so good knowing your family is not the only one out there struggling. The MWC had a “Strengthening Families Together” course which I signed up for. This was my first personal meeting with Sharon although I had seen her in the office on a number of occasions.
Sharon was in a very unique position as she was a psychiatric nurse her entire professional career and she also had a loved one that suffered from mental illness. Sharon was so very inspired and compassionate and ready to teach any one, at any time, about mental illness. Sharon gave countless hours facilitating these programs especially on the weekends. I have always felt so very fortunate to have taken that particular course with that group of family members and Sharon. It is amazing how you form a bond so quickly with a group of strangers. With Sharon at the helm, sharing her wisdom, her lived and her professional experience, it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to be educated by the best and learn about both the psychiatric and lived experience of mental illness. I recommended the strengthening families course to many people while Sharon was facilitator of the program.
Sharon certainly had her very original way of expressing herself. Never once was she afraid to tell it like it was. It did not matter if she was talking to a homeless person or the Prime Minister; she said what she was thinking. This brings to mind a funny story regarding Sharon’s desire to speak her mind with politicians. At one of our fundraising events, we auctioned off Dan Ashton’s donation of “Lunch with your MLA”. Prior to the auction, Sharon was telling us that the lunch with Dan was “absolutely priceless”. Realizing the value in having a chat with Dan Ashton, I bid on the lunch prize and won it. However, I never had that lunch as Sharon, in all honesty, took my certificate and enjoyed that lunch convinced that she was the highest bidder. We still laugh when we recall Sharon’s personal great need to have that lunch with Dan Ashton!
Sharon, being so tiny in stature, made up for it with her voice. She fought for the underdog, she approached many elected officials, and bureaucrats to tell them how underfunded mental health programs were. Sharon also spoke up about the stigma associated with mental health; how far we have progressed in fighting the stigma but reminded us that work still needed to be done. Sharon was very soft and understanding with people and their families during difficult times. However she was also capable of kicking butt when it was needed. Sharon was excellent at using simple language, sometimes with gruffness in her voice, to excellently deliver her message. If you were on the receiving end you certainly understood the point she was making.
Under Sharon’s guidance and encouragement, the MWC undertook to train facilitators for the continuation of the peer support and family support programs and courses. It will be extremely difficult to fill Sharon's shoes; however the individuals that took the courses have learned a lot from Sharon's teachings and from the course content. I know that Sharon was very pleased with the outcome of the training and had a lot of confidence that the legacy of the MWC would continue.
When I became a director of the MWC board, I wanted to learn and help shape policy for the future of the center. When Sharon was first hospitalized over a year ago, the board had to learn many things very quickly and realized how much Sharon did for the center. While in the hospital she was still worrying about the MWC and providing direction. Sharon volunteered all of her time as both the executive director of the center, as well as, board president for many years. In fact, despite her declining health, Sharon very recently accepted to assist the board in the position of past president and consultant. That is the true definition of dedication.
Sharon will be missed by so many and as acting chair of the board of directors, be assured that we strive to continue Sharon's legacy. I want express my heartfelt condolences to all of Sharon's family. I personally want to thank Tom, Sharon’s children and grandchildren for the many hours that Sharon spent working and teaching at the center. This time with us was time away from family and as such, is a generous gift that your family bestowed upon us.
I also want to express my condolences to Tyrone, Rebecca, Val, Kayla, Chris and Rene, and all the former staff that worked with Sharon on a daily basis. My condolences as well to fellow board members; Denise, Sherani and John.
Family Support Worker SOSMWC
It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Sharon Evans. She was fierce, a force to be reckoned with. Her passions and life skills set her apart from any other person I’ve ever known. She was a real treat to work with. Loving, caring, sassier than ever. When I first met Sharon I was taken back that this very strong woman I had heard about for years was in fact a very tiny older lady in a little scooter, by the end of our conversation I had no doubt in my mind that this woman could pack a mean punch and would put up a fight for anyone or anything she believed in. She showed true determination in everything she did. It was an honour to get to work closely with her and learn from her as she was a vast wealth of knowledge. Sharon was such a beautiful soul. She has been missed around the Centre for the last year and knowing that it’s not a matter of healing in order to return has been hard to come to terms with, she will be in our hearts forever.
Sharon D. Evans
August 23, 1946 - June 1, 2020
#118 246 Martin Street, Penticton, BC, Canada
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