Community Knowledge Centre - Toronto Community Foundation

Sheena’s Place

Joanna Anderson, Executive Director
janderson@sheenasplace.org
416-927-8900 x23
Charitable number: 89878 8948 RR0001
visit our web site

Sheen's Place Logo

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About this organization

Mission

At Sheena’s Place we offer hope and support to individuals, families and friends affected by eating disorders by providing a wide range of professionally facilitated support groups and services. We are committed to inspiring hope, reducing stigma, raising awareness and offering meaningful help and information at all stages of recovery.

Located in downtown Toronto, Sheena’s Place is a non-institutional, non-residential centre where people with similar issues and concerns come together in groups to share experiences, thoughts, feelings, and coping strategies. There are groups for young adults, adults, mothers, women over forty and families, friends and partners of those with eating disorders.  We recommend individuals attend an introductory information interview with us to enable them to choose the support group best suited to their needs. Individuals can access these free support groups within 72 hours of first contact.

History of Organization

Founded in July 1994, following the tragic death of 22-year old Sheena Carpenter, Trudy Eagan and Jane Fenton who are friends and colleagues of Sheena’s mother, Lynn Carpenter, were motivated to create a support centre for people with eating disorders. They envisioned a non-clinical setting that would offer hope and support to those affected by eating disorders and their families.

Sixteen board members began to develop the vision and mission and undertook the task of raising funds. A location in downtown Toronto, accessible by public transit and close to colleges and universities was sought.  In May 1996, a comfortable old house on 87 Spadina Road was purchased, and in October 1996, Sheena’s Place opened its doors. 

From the beginning, programs and services have been offered free of charge without government funding for operations. Sheena’s Place continues to rely on the generous support of individuals, foundations, corporations and revenue from special events to maintain services.

The need for our services continues to increase. We served almost 1,000 clients last year alone. Over 240,000 people in the GTA will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime, yet in Toronto, there are only ten hospital beds available for care. Our support groups are designed to complement medical-based treatment including motivating people in hospital programs and serving those who are in treatment and recovery. 

Accolades and Accomplishments

In 2011, we served just under 1,000 clients within 72 hours of first contact and experienced over 150,000 unique visits to our website. We also partnered with local universities and colleges to deliver programs and groups on campus to students looking for help and support in dealing with their eating disorders.

In our most recent survey, clients told us that they:

  • Feel hopeful for positive change (92%)
  • Feel more able to make positive change (92%)
  • Feel motivated to improve their life (98%)
  • Feel supported because of Sheena's Place programs (98%)

Programs

>Support Group
>Community Outreach
>Volunteerism and Mentorship

Sheena’s Place program objectives and activities are multi-fold:

  • Provide direct service in the form of professionally facilitated support groups to those with eating disorders, their families and friends.
  • Provide Drop-In & Information Interviews for prospective clients to learn more about the agency.
  • Raise awareness about eating disorders, healthy eating and positive body image.
  • Share our knowledge with other leading healthcare professionals and the media.
  • Provide resources on eating disorders and related issues through our library, and our website. 
  • Provide training and supervision for university and college students from a variety of disciplines including social work, nurses, mental health, and marketing.
  • Provide community based presentations to raise awareness.

Support Group

Research shows direct support groups provide people affected by eating disorders with an important sense of well being and community. In our groups, clients with similar issues and concerns come together to share experiences, thoughts, feelings, and coping strategies.  The facilitators that lead each group session have an extensive background and direct experience in working with individuals with eating disorders. The facilitators are paid by Sheena's Place on a fee for service basis.

Groups reflect different themes and areas of focus including:

  • Support Groups: Individuals help each other by sharing stories and receiving encouragement from others. There are groups for young adults, adults, college and university students, mothers, women at mid life, and there are groups specifically for families, friends and partners of those with eating disorders. 
  • Body Image Groups: Through gentle physical movement like dance, nia, and yoga, participants rediscover strengths, and learn new ways to manage the stresses of daily life.
  • Skill Building Groups: These groups present new ways of coping and strategies for making changes.
  • Expressive Arts Groups: Participants find their “voice” through the various art mediums to express feelings and release difficult emotions.

Funding and Program Partners

There are no program partners. We are the only organization of this type in Toronto and the GTA.

Our expertise, however, is sought after and as a result we have collaborated with the following groups in the GTA: 519 Church; Buddies in Bad Times Theatre; CAMH; Canadian Institute of Health Research; George Brown College; Girls on the Run; H.E.Y.Y. (Hearing Every Youth through Youth); Humber River Health Centre; Kids Help Phone; NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre); Nightwood Theatre; Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders; Project Act – in affiliation with the Mixed Company; Rexdale Community Health Centre; Ryerson University; Scadding Court Community Centre; The Hospital for Sick Children; Toronto City Hall's International Women’s Week Committee/Event; Toronto General Hospital; University of Toronto; York University; Youth Link; and the Youth Philanthropy Initiatives – Toskan Foundation. 

Program Impact

Walking into Sheena’s Place is the first step towards recovery, moving out of isolation and into a supportive community. Clients can access support within 72 hours of contact. In 2011, we supported just under 1,000 individuals.

Toronto's Vital Signs® Issue Area(s) addressed by Program

>Health and Wellness
>


Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"42.8% of Torontonians over 18 report being overweight or obese (based on BMI) and obesity affects 1 in 7 Torontonians (18 and older)."

Many of our clients struggle with binge eating disorder, and we have several support groups that focus on recovery for this specific illness.

Participant Vignette

A Letter from a client:

I hate that people have called my ten-year-old son an anorexic, because I refuse to let it define him. I prefer to say he has anorexia. It is a disease that will be transient even if it takes years to overcome. It is not who he is or will be even though there are days now when it is all there is in his life.

I hate anorexia. I hate it because there are days when it is all that is in my life too -- I hate that I can't grocery shop anymore without seeing aisles of challenges and problems. I can't do laundry without seeing my son's small clothes that are two sizes smaller than they were a year ago. I hate that I can't do my job reliably anymore and have to consider resigning. I hate that joy has been taken out of holidays, time alone with my husband, weekends, family gatherings, school trips, birthday parties, sporting events and even clothing because I have to be vigilant any time there is food or exercise involved. I have to watch for evidence of self-harm under too many layers.

I hate anorexia. Most of all I hate the relentless pain my son has to endure, the self-loathing, isolation, sadness and hunger he feels. The deprivation he insists on, that reaches beyond food to social events, toys and other ten-year-old boy interests.

That's a lot of hate. However, from the first phone call, when I opened with "I need help", Sheena's place has helped me turn that hate into more productive feelings. That is the best thing about Sheena's Place for me – it drives me forward and makes me feel like I am moving through something, not stuck in it.

My weekly support group is 90 minutes, in seven days, where I feel heard, understood and not alone. I feel the hope of the other mothers and am bolstered by their bravery and inspired by their resourcefulness and intelligence. I get real concrete advice and information about a disease that is a moving target in a healthcare system that is strained and sometimes difficult to navigate. I find myself listening intently for the nugget of truth that's going to get me through hard situations and prepare me for ones I have yet to face, and it always comes through either with a concrete suggestion, a story that resonates with my experience or a resource that I have found helpful.

Lately Sheena's Place has helped me rephrase my rage, fear and sadness into a mantra I repeat to myself often throughout the day:

My love is bigger, my patience greater and my hope stronger than anorexia. It is not going to take my son. It is not going to ruin my family.

Thank you for caring to ask how I feel, for answering so many questions about the disease, and for bringing resources, experience, patience and a smile to every encounter. Your work is so important and I am greatly indebted to you and Sheena's Place.

Giving Opportunity

Activities a donation will support

Funding can be directed towards any of the following support groups that we offer throughout the year:

Support

  • Young Adults
  • Adults
  • Mothers of Children with Eating Disorders
  • Mother with an Eating Disorder
  • Families, Friends
  • Women at Mid-Life

Body Image

  • Full Bodied Yoga
  • Yoga
  • Belly Dance
  • Nia
  • Reiki

Skills Building

  • Addictions and Eating Disorders
  • Ways to Stop Binging
  • Coping Skills
  • Trauma and Eating Disorders
  • Eating Management and Nutrition

Expressive Arts

  • Open Art Studio 
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Drumming
  • Singing

Donation impact

We are the only place where individuals with an eating disorder and their families/friends can access support in Toronto. Funding will sustain free, professionally led support groups that can be accessed within 72 hours of contact.

Each group offers clients hope and courage to carry on with dignity and make informed life choices about their own health and recovery.  This support is a life line for our clients. Clients have increased self-esteem due to more effective guidance and support.

The broader community benefits though the sharing of best practices with other organizations who are replicating our support centre model.

Community Outreach

We are committed to raising awareness and providing information about eating disorders to the communities we serve. Our community outreach initiatives target 7,400 individuals from front line health care workers to teachers and parents.

Our lending library offers over 600 books on eating disorders and related issues, and is often a primary resource for students in high school, college and university.

Our comprehensive website also registered 164,500 site specific visits in one year.

As the need for our services and information about eating disorders continues to grow we are assessing new ways to reach more individuals and to share our knowledge in a more meaningful way. We are currently developing an eLearning module for parents that they can access online 24/7 to learn how to cope with a family member who has an eating disorder.

Further funding will enable us to evaluate and expand our range of online tools for support from additional eLearning modules for our clients to online information seminars for the communities we serve. The online service expansion will help us reach more individuals when they need support the most.

Funding and Program Partners

Sheena’s Place is a referral and complimentary resource to Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders at the Hospital for Sick Children and the National Eating Disorder Information Centre.

As the primary model we regularly share our expertise with four other eating disorder centres in Ontario and the following organizations: 519 Church, CAMH, Canadian Institute of Health Research, City Hall, George Brown College, Girls on the Run, H.E.Y.Y., Humber River Health Centre, Kids Help Phone, Rexdale Community Health Centre, Ryerson University, Scadding Court Community Centre, Toronto General Hospital, University of Toronto, York University, Youth Link and Youth Philanthropy Initiatives.

Program Impact

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), anorexia affects 1% to 2% of Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 25, and bulimia affects between 3% and 5% of Canadian women in this age group.  That adds up to over 85,000 sufferers in Ontario alone.


Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with anorexia will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder.

Our community outreach and online initiatives are essential to the health and well-being of our city and in keeping with our mission of providing support, and raising awareness.

Demographics served:

>Age a) all ages

Neighbourhoods Served:

>Toronto Central
>Toronto East
>Toronto North
>Toronto West

Toronto's Vital Signs® Issue Area(s) addressed by Program

>Health and Wellness
>Learning


Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

Chronic disease is now the chief cause of death and disability across Canada. Chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV/Aids and obesity, are unevenly distributed in the population because health is so closely linked to good housing, healthy food, parks and recreational facilities, safe, well-designed neighbourhoods, transportation, educational opportunity, and uncontestably, to income. Lack of income impacts physical and mental health by restricting access to all of the above, and increasing the likelihood of damaged social relationships and isolation.

The Sheena's Place library and online resources are available to everyone free of charge.

Participant Vignette

“Sheena's Place is committed to providing tangible help to individuals for whom resources are scarce to none. In Toronto, there are only ten publicly funded hospital beds to treat those with an eating disorder. In addition, individuals often require becoming "treatment-motivated" and Sheena's Place's non-judgmental support group model plays a pivotal role for those waiting for treatment and for those who are in recovery.

Our organization (the Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders) has enjoyed a long-term partnership and strategic relationship with Sheena's Place. Both of our organizations focus on promoting choices to improve body satisfaction and body care, self esteem, well-being and healthy lifestyles.

Sheena's Place is a highly regarded registered charity in Toronto.  We have been impressed with their numerous awareness activities promoting the role of healthy eating and active living in the context of overall body positive health.”

                                          Dr. Gail McVey, Director, Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders

Giving Opportunity

Activities a donation will support

Raising awareness about eating disorders is essential to the health and well being of our community. At Sheena’s Place we know eating disorders not only destroy individuals, but also entire families.

Funding will continue to ensure we can share our expertise with other organizations, provide eating disorder awareness presentations to the community and offer new, meaningful support services online that can be accessed 24/7 including an eLearning module for parents coping with a family member with an eating disorder.

Donation impact

Resources for this portion of the population are scarce to none despite the fact that it is a growing and challenging mental health issue. Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about this serious, and life threatening illness. Last year, we shared our expertise directly with 7,400 individuals in the community and experienced 150,000 unique visits to our website. Funding will ensure that we can continue to raise awareness in our city and provide information and support online.

Volunteerism and Mentorship

Our volunteers are a passionate, talented and dedicated team. They welcome and supply information to our clients in person, and on the phone, offer essential support at special events and assist in education, outreach and fundraising. Without them we could not provide the range of services we offer to those in need of our assistance and support.


As a teaching organization, Sheena’s Place offers placements to university and college students from professional programs. Their youth, energy and intelligence bring new perspectives, their ideas enrich our programs, their dedication and their commitment help us to expand our service delivery. By increasing their understanding of eating disorders. Sheena’s Place is helping to educate tomorrow’s healthcare practitioners.

Funding and Program Partners

We are the only organization of this type in Toronto and the GTA.

Program Impact

Our volunteers make an impact in our workplace and our community. In 2011, 224 volunteers provided 4,681 hours of service from administration to speaking in the community, fundraising and supporting special projects. Many of our volunteers have been affected by eating disorders, and offer themselves as volunteers in order to give back because of the support they received at Sheena's Place.


Our students gain a greater understanding of the complexities of eating disorders and how to apply their new knowledge when they join the work force. 


Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The youth (between 15 and 24) unemployment rate in Toronto remained above 17% in 2011; that's 51% higher than youth unemployment in 2001."

Participant Vignette

“This placement provided me with a wide array of opportunities that assisted in broadening my skills for a career in social work.  During my time here, I co-facilitated two support groups, worked at the front desk answering phones and helping people, conducted interviews for those seeking more information about groups, and participated in a number of special events and health education fairs."

Danielle Woodcock, 2nd Year Student in the Master of Social Work Program at University of Toronto

Giving Opportunity

Activities a donation will support

Funding will support volunteer recruitment, training and retention and provide training to university and college students from a variety of disciplines including social work, nursing, mental health, and marketing.

Donation impact

Our volunteers and students learn the value of working individually and as a team. They actively engage with the community to raise awareness about eating disorders. They also gain valuable experience that can position them strongly when seeking employment opportunities.


In 2011, 224 volunteers provided 4,681 hours of service. We offered training to six placement students. Funding will ensure we can continue to recruit, train and retain volunteers, and educate future healthcare professionals.

Success Stories

Support Group

A Letter from a client:I hate that people have called my ten-year-old son an anorexic, ... >more

Community Outreach

“Sheena's Place is committed to providing tangible help to individuals for whom resources are ... >more

Volunteerism and Mentorship

“This placement provided me with a wide array of opportunities that assisted in broadening my ... >more