The Red Door: The Original Story
My five-year-old daughter loves to draw and color. Last year, she drew a lovely picture with a blue sky, green grass, a tall tree, and... a random red door. She always cherishes her masterpieces and loves to make other random people feel loved by giving her treasures away. She decided to give this special piece of artwork to her aunt who she loves dearly. The interesting part about it though was that her aunt with whom she shared the picture, recently lost her husband, my brother, due to suicide. After a particularly hard day, she told me that the picture meant so much to her, especially the red door, which she interpreted as the "doorway to heaven." That struck me and as I walked away I immediately googled: "what does a red door mean?" I began to read about the different things that a red door symbolizes depending upon the culture. It is fascinating that it always means something friendly, desirable, and positive.
In the Bible, the Israelites smeared lambs blood across their front doors to serve as protection from the Angel of Death. In the middle ages, cathedrals were built with doors painted with red crosses; passing through those doors meant you were on holy ground and in a safe place. In America, a very old tradition was to paint your door red to serve as an invitation to travelers who were weary and tired from the road, into your home for a place to rest.
In general, a red door symbolizes an invitation and protection.
I write this to encourage you to be a Red Door.
People suffering from mental illness are tired; especially those thinking about suicide.
Loved ones caring for people suffering from mental illness are exhausted and feel isolated and scared.
Survivors of suicide victims are lost without their loved one and are experiencing grief in the form of sadness, anger, denial, and fear.
They all need red doors. They all need a place to rest, a place to feel safe and protected, a place to feel welcome and not alone.
When you know someone who is suffering themselves, caring for someone who is suffering, or who has recently lost someone, there are very specific things you can do to use your voice, your ears and your heart to help. Be a Red Door.
I’d like to think that Keith, my brother, who lost his battle with mental illness, finally found peace when he walked through that red door on the other side. And I’d like to think that my daughter was the messenger to let his loved ones know that he and they could finally rest after their long and tough journey.
While my heart breaks, let’s also make sure there are plenty of red doors down here on earth to offer solace to them and everyone around them while they are still traveling on their journey.
Inspired by all of this, in 2021, we opened up a fund with the Fayette Community Foundation called: The Red Door Fund for Mental Health. Mental illness is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban communities and yet, there are fewer behavioral healthcare providers and services available in rural areas to offer treatment and support.
The vision of the Red Door Fund for Mental Health is for those struggling with mental illness and their loved ones in this rural region to not only have access to the resources they need and be able to navigate those resources, but also be able to turn to any person for support and feel accepted, understood, and unashamed.
In 2022 the fund raised $17,840 and invested $10,850 back into the community in the way of mental health awareness and education. Additionally, over 60,000 people were inspired to be red doors themselves through our campaign. The sheer number of red doors and driveways (over 500) seen around the region as well as the creativity and sincerity involved was humbling.
The Red Door Fund is now looking to 2023 and has already raised over $63,000 this year to be invested back into the region to increase mental health services and programs. This February we are kicking off the campaign again and we hope to surpass the number of red doors and driveways we saw last year as we continue to spread mental health awareness in the region.
If you want to join our mission and change mental health awareness and access locally, consider reaching out or making a donation. Making a donation to The Red Door Fund will help support local people struggling with mental illness, their families, and mental healthcare providers.
For more information or to make a contribution to the Red Door Fund, please click here, or mail to P.O. Box 664, La Grange, TX 78945.
By: Cheryl Pekar
Raised since 2021
Invested into the community since 2021
The Red Door Fund has secured a generous $25,000 matching donation. With the community’s support, the goal is to raise an additional $25,000, resulting in a total investment of $50,000 to further mental health awareness and services in the region.
2023 Community Impact Grantees
$20,000: Guiding Hearts Counseling for Internship Salaries
$7,500: Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training
$5,000: Turtle Wing Foundation for Counseling Scholarships
$1,500: Schulenburg ISD for Therapy Dog Birdy
$1,000: Weimar ISD for the Random Acts of Kindness Program