Peer Support Niagara
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Letters of Reference

The following are letters of reference from people who would like to see the support centre reopen. If you would like to write a letter of support, click here.

Louisa writes,

January 6, 2011
To Whom this Concerns,

                The more I interact with people, the more I realize the depth and vastness of mental disorders.  Several people I know are affected by mental illness themselves or indirectly by someone they love.  In my case, I have been diagnosed with bipolar.  With the support of an incredible network of professionals and people who care about me, prayer, medication, physical exercise, extra sleep and good nutrition, I am able to live a balanced life.  I realize that many people need to interact with others to hear about their journeys so that they have hope.  I would be willing to share my story at Peer Support.  My hope for Peer Support is that they will be able to receive the necessary funding in order to help people who need extra support.

                I have found Vince to be a caring individual who truly has a heart for helping people with mental illnesses.  Vince promptly returns messages and actively recruits support from the community.  His willingness to work hard and persistence are excellent qualities.  I would be happy to recommend Peer Support as a fabulous community outreach to impact many lives.


Louisa Phillips, St. Catharines

Brenda writes:

TO: Whom it may concern,

RE: New Business Centre

It have been brought to my attention that Peer Support Niagara is interested in opening a new business centre that will offer work in various areas to people.

Last year, I connected with PSN looking for staff to work as housekeepers in my daughter’s company and instead found support with my own emotional issues. I then spent several months working with PSN in an effort to get peer support established in Niagara.

During this time, I was able to provide support for other members and also gained a great deal of knowledge about peer support and other mental health issues.

I learned that there is a great shortage of assistance for people suffering from mental illnesses, specifically depression and anxiety. Help can be needed any day at any time and there is basically little available for people in these desperate situations.

Niagara needs a centre that provides ongoing assistance for people searching for help. The only other option is going to the hospital, which puts a huge burden on healthcare costs and is absolutely unnecessary in most cases. People don’t need professional help all the time, but they do need ongoing support.

A centre could provide not only emotional assistance, but also train people to learn skills in areas such as office, odd jobs, cleaning, marketing, even an auto shop.

I would definitely be supportive of a business centre if there was sufficient staffing available and was supported by professionals. Personally, I would be unable to assist with a centre as I have my own projects underway that take a large amount of my time.



Kathleen writes:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter to tell you why I think St. Catharines needs a place like Peer Support Niagara.

Many years ago I had some 'issues' and had a group and some one-on-one discussion therapy, but I did not like it. More recently, I had some medical problems, as well as some stressful things going on in my life that caused me to realize that my emotional state was not as good as it had been.

I noticed the former Peer Support Centre last spring while out walking. I live a short distance from it. In April, I reluctantly decided to see what the place was like. I almost immediately felt comfortable there. It was a sociable, constructive experience for me. I enjoyed helping others and letting them help me.

I have since become more like the person I was long ago, with added experience of course, in a purely positive way. I began to open up verbally and became more understanding of myself and others. I had barely spoken for years and I thank Peer Support for setting me on this new path.

Please could there be another Peer Support Centre open soon. It could help many people learn and grow and possibly teach them to solve some of their problems.

I am willing to spend one day a week, with exception of Fridays, in a volunteer capacity, possibly 'manning' the telephones as sort of a part-time receptionist.

Please consider all of this when making your decision about the future of Peer Support.

Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.

Very truly yours,


Lisa writes:

I am a considerably new comer to St Catharines . I was divorced in 2009 and came to live here to be close to my daughter only temporarily until I have decided what to do, where to live. This was my second divorce at the age of 55 and although shortly after each one I was devastated, as it would be expected, I thought, I was strong enough not to fall apart mentally and financially. I just needed to pick up the pieces and stand up again. My daughter was the only person I knew in this town. I had lived in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario and recently Chicago, Illinois and had no friends or family other than her here.  She was a great spiritual support for me. I was scared, needed to hold on to something, some people. I wanted to help, have a fulfilling life. Then, I bought a house and permanently settled in this beautiful town. When I was out “searching a meaning for life” one day I found the Peer Support Niagara. I remember the day I walked in and met a few volunteers and Vince there. I asked them “What can I do to help?” I almost thanked my luck. Finally, I would be able to help without asking anything back.  I went there dedicatedly a few weeks until it was closed. That is a tremendous, fulfilling feeling; making a change in somebody’s life, in any positive shape or form! I always felt strongly that when people “give” they get so much back in return, not physically, but spiritually. I still keep contact with Vince, Julie and another member whom I try to help from time to time even though in a small way.  I can’t wait to offer my help to other people whether on the phone or in person by talking to them; be a sounding board, listen, offer some wisdom that is built with my education as a teacher and also my life experience and help change lives!

Still waiting. Thank you,


Rita writes:

I have referred various Homes for Special Care residents to Peer Support Niagara and they have found the experience valuable. I feel that peer support is an integral part of mental health recovery.


Rita Mobarak, MSW, RSW
Social Worker,
Homes for Special Care Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare, West 5th Campus,
100 West 5th
Hamilton, ON Canada
Telephone No.: (905) 522-1155, Ext. 36639

Rakesh writes:

As a past volunteer with Peer Support Niagara, I was saddened to find out that the centre was closing and pleased to hear of its potential reopening. In the spring of 2010, through your website, I first learned Peer Support Niagara needed volunteers. In those days, I had plenty of free time at my disposal and wanted to utilize it creatively as well as in a productive manner.

Doing the volunteer work at the centre gave me the opportunity to do both in one place. In 2010, I…

- provided peer support to participants

- assumed reception duties

- manned the centre during business hours

- participated in fund raising projects

- promoted the centre via word of mouth

In the future when the center reopens, I will be willing to give some of my free time either in the office or in the auto shop.

In my opinion the community needs the energy of individuals with certain challenges to be channelled for productive work. This will build confidence and enhance their self- esteem.

Wish you all the best in this endeavour.

Sincerely Yours

Rakesh Sharma

Kate writes:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a university student majoring in psychology. I was interested in volunteering and found Peer Support Niagara through their website. The centers clear goal of support caught my eye.  Vince was very approachable and made the centre a place for support and created a sense of community. I really enjoyed volunteering at the centre because everyone was extremely friendly. Every community needs a place like Peer Support Niagara. Peer Support Niagara created a safe community where individuals could come together to discuss their difficulties and contribute to the running of the centre. The centre created an environment where everyone helped run the centre giving all of us a sense of purpose.  Whenever you walked into the centre there was always a friendly and positive environment. You never fully understand the need for a centre like Peer Support Niagara until you talk to individuals who benefit from the centre. I was fortunate enough to have this experience and look forward to volunteering there again once the centre re-opens.

Yours truly,



Tina writes,

I would like to express my appreciation for Peer Support Niagara. Having bipolar disorder as well as borderline personality disorder, I was blessed to be in the company of fellow people with similar diagnoses, and having such supportive people in my presence. Mental illnesses coupled with spending time thinking and stagnating your mind does not help in recovery. What does help is keeping busy and among fellow peers. That's what I believe drove PSN so well. We had yard sales for fundraisers, and small jobs which kept ourselves occupied. I was honoured to have the opportunity to speak of my recovery at the center. It was healing in that I had such a receptive audience who truly cared.
Vince is a great person all around. You can tell this man is dedicated to helping others through their emotional difficulties. He puts his heart and soul into helping people through bibliographical therapy, relaxing tapes, guest speaker events, and even just coffee and snacks with the members. It was unfortunate to have the center close, as it was both a sentimental and inspiring place. St. Catharines needs a business like PSN once again. There are few places that offer what the center did and the gathering of people miss it.
I highly recommend opening it up again, and I am sure more members will become involved if it is advertised appropriately. The supporters and drop-in members have become close supports even after it closed. Although some changes may need to be made to keep it alive and running, I believe in time the solution can be found and we can once again join together in our mission to help ourselves and ultimately help others.
Tina Embrey
SSW student - Niagara College, Canada