The challenges of mental illness were a central concern for Marjorie Clark and they are a continuing passion of her husband Hugh. “Ignorance about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it are still real problems,” says Hugh. The Clark family has supported various mental health organizations financially in Hamilton for many years, and both Hugh and Marge were committed volunteers with the Family Association for the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia.
“Marge was a tremendous support to me and to my son Steve in dealing with schizophrenia,” says Hugh. “She would agree about the need for this fund.”
Established after Marge’s death in 2007, the Marjorie Hawkins Clark Fund will focus on community support for people with mental health issues. Initially, it will target two critical areas: employment and peer support. As he pondered the best way to direct the fund, Hugh sought help from Hamilton Community Foundation, with which he has had a long affiliation. The Foundation, in turn, reached out to experts in the mental health field. Together, they matched best practices with Hugh’s goals and refined the focus of the fund.
“The Foundation helped me get the best advice,” says Hugh. “Mental health is a complex issue. While there have been advances in treatment and medication, community support is still sorely lacking. Unemployment, isolation, affordable housing, public education – these are all areas that desperately need attention. This fund in Marge’s memory will tackle some of them. I’m confident it will make a difference.”
Marjorie Dell grew up in Hamilton’s North End, the youngest of eight children. Her father died when she was just four years old. The extended Dell family is a close one, and organizing annual family reunions was one of Marge’s delights. Marge herself lost her husband at a young age and raised two sons, Bob and Ted, on her own. She and Hugh married in 1988. Hugh has three children.
“When we got together, it was a second marriage for both of us,” says Hugh. “Marge was a wonderful person who had her feet on the ground. Her focus was family and community. She kept things simple. It’s those fond memories that sustain me now.”
Excerpt from 2007-2008 Annual Report