Success Story: Renascent Foundation


Since 1970, Renascent has helped almost 50,000 people, becoming an accredited national leader in providing hope and healing to individuals, families, loved ones, communities, and organizations impacted by addiction.

Their mission includes facilitating addiction recovery, education, and prevention through programs and services. And during a time when treatment facility waitlists have become a matter of life and death, Renascent is looking to do everything they can to help combat the current addiction crisis.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 2,816 deaths due to opioid-related overdoses in 2016 alone, and nearly 4,000 in 2017. At a time when we are facing an addiction crisis, the most vulnerable members of our community experience a significant hurdle in accessing funded or subsidized treatments.

Christina Selvaggio, Donor Relations Officer at the Renascent Foundation (the social entrepreneurship and fundraising arm of Renascent) says, “In Ontario, people typically have to wait four to eight months for funded residential addiction treatment. For many, that’s too long. In some cases, where the need is highest, people don’t survive the wait. At Renascent, one of Ontario’s largest residential addiction treatment facilities and an accredited national leader in the field, people are waiting an average of four months for funded treatment. For those who are desperate for help today, the wait puts them and their families at great risk.”

In response to this crisis, at the beginning of May 2018, Renascent launched their THIS CAN’T WAIT initiative, a privately-funded response to the current addiction crisis. This effort covers the full cost of Renascent’s comprehensive residential treatment program and continuing outpatient care, effectively moving the most vulnerable people off the waitlist and onto the road to recovery. Almost $400,000 has been collectively donated by private citizens, which will allow for treatment bursaries at Renascent treatment centers for 36 individuals and their families.

“Following the May 1st launch, the first few recipients of this treatment bursary have graduated from their inpatient treatment programs this summer,” says Selvaggio. “Now they begin the process of returning to their home community with the ongoing support of Renascent’s outpatient continuing care.”

In order to demonstrate how their THIS CAN’T WAIT program has created lasting change, the team at Renascent shared a few stories from program alumni about how addiction treatment has helped them, including this testimonial from Mandy:

When I found out I was chosen for the THIS CAN'T WAIT program, I almost cried. It feels good to matter to somebody, even if that person is a complete stranger. I was going down the wrong path and was very close to death. You saved my life. You saved my 4 children's mother. You saved my mom and dad’s daughter!

Also, this heartfelt letter written by an anonymous graduate shortly after leaving in-patient treatment at Renascent:

I never really felt as though people cared for me. For many years people have been dropping out of my life faster than the speed of light. The only people I had to care for me were those getting paid, sometimes in a legal sense but, more often than not, illegal. For the first time in a long time I feel like someone, with no attachments or price in mind, is caring for me and so much so that it is saving my life.

When I was 13 my mother had passed away, only 6 months after my sister died. This is when I first found alcohol. It became my everyday release, up until April 28, 2018! Not too long after I was introduced to alcohol I had found ecstasy. It was my joy of all joys! By the time I was 14, in 2009, my father had kicked me out and I was left to figure it out alone. I was at the awkward age where a shelter couldn’t even accept me, so I called Children’s Aid and begged for help. At this time I had been self-harming, as it was the only way I knew how to handle my internal struggle. Every home I went to would send me off to the psychiatric wards, stating I was completely unlovable and definitely unfixable. But it was okay (in my mind) because I always had alcohol and that had always managed to make my worries disappear.

When I was 16, and finally allowed at the shelter, I finally felt at home, like I was no longer alone. Not long after, I became pregnant with a beautiful little boy. He had kept me pretty well sober up until he was born. Almost immediately I started drinking again and using cocaine on weekends when he wasn’t around. The chaos became too much and I asked the grandparents (on the father’s side) to watch him, as I knew I was unhealthy and would only end up dragging my son down with me if I had kept custody. I had these few things I told myself (promised myself, actually) that I would never do: crack, crystal meth, heroin, and prostitution. Within 3 years I was doing all of that. And then I met this really wealthy man, whom I really thought I loved. He brought me anything but love. He almost killed me not once, twice, or even 3 times but rather every other weekend. So quite obviously my using progressed. This is when I started overdosing. I truly didn’t care if I lived or died. If I lived it was another change to get high and if I died at least the pain stopped. I was broken, hopeless, and completely alone. Up until about a month ago. Even filling out applications I didn’t really know what to think. This disease, of addiction, had my brain so distorted.

And then the phone call came. I was dope-sick, lying in bed, begging for something to change. I knew there wasn’t much time before this disease would take my life. So I answered the phone. “Hello, is this _____?” they asked. “Yes” I answered, very wary as to why Renascent had been calling. At this time I was told that they had received special donations to help a select few people who were in dire crisis. I was in shock, but something in me changed. I became hopeful and I was grateful. I was told that because of my high-risk situation, I was actually the first person they were calling. In that moment I finally felt important, cared for, and even a little loved. I felt like my life was worth living! Because of you guys, you amazing, beautiful, caring souls, I’ve been given the gift of life. I’ve been given the first 42 days of my new life. I’m learning routine, I’m learning how to be around people and not isolate. I’m learning how to care for myself and better yet love myself, all over again.

I don’t know how I could ever express my gratitude to all you anonymous donors. You’ve given my son the chance to have his mother again, and the chance for my family to be proud rather than scared.

You have saved my life and there are no words that could ever show my gratitude. Thank you for this amazing gift of life.

Aside from these testimonials, Renascent’s impact can be seen through the numbers from their 2017-18 fiscal year, including 26,224 phone calls to and from their Access Centre, 251 people participating in one-on-one counselling, 276 people participating in a Family Care program, and 1,424 people receiving treatment.

In order to help their online fundraising succeed, Renascent uses Panorama’s advanced peer-to-peer campaign tools to create campaign-specific fundraising pages and events.

“We use the Purchase template often, as we host many events and golf tournaments that require us to be specific,” says Selvaggio. “The ability to customize our thank you emails has given us a benefit over other larger charities who typically use cookie cutter thank you messaging. We can instantly thank donors by telephone and email as their gifts come in.

“Being a smaller sized charity, we appreciate the flexibility and creative edge that FrontStream allows us to have with Panorama system. It puts us at the same level as larger staffed organizations.”

When it comes to sharing any tips or best practices that they may have accumulated over the years, Selvaggio has plenty of wisdom. “When your charity is thinking about launching a new campaign, consider the great deal of planning, passion, and regular communication that needs to occur pre-gift and post-gift. It is great that your donor gave, but now what? You need to remember to steward them and show them exactly how their money is being put into action.

“In addition, do not forget to be personal; this fundraising campaign is targeted to our top-tier donors, and so requires a personal touch, something that a direct mail or digital solicitation cannot support alone. You need to condition your donors, plant the seed, and watch it grow. When your donor can make the difference that affects not just one person’s life, they are going to see the investment in your charity, and they're going to continue to be committed.

“It also helps that we have a specific goal in mind: each donor is asked to help pull 12 people (one person each month) off the waitlist and into treatment. That means in one year, 12 people will have a second chance at life; there is something magical about that.”



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