Women’s shelter eyeing centre here

Duane Hicks

The Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope is taking a step forward in establishing a long-term presence in Fort Frances.
The agency received a $5,000 donation from the Emo Food Bank & Thrift Shop on Friday, kick-starting a fundraising campaign for a Women’s Resource Centre and possibly a couple of transitional housing units the agency wants to open here.
“We could not be more excited to receive such a generous donation to start our fundraising campaign towards a women’s resource centre in Fort Frances,” enthused Donna Kroocmo, executive director of the Shelter of Hope.
“It is a dream to be able to have a permanent presence in the geographic centre of our district, and this donation provided enthusiasm and positive reinforcement for this idea,” she added.
“We are so grateful.”
The hope is to open a resource centre where women can come and receive counselling, resource materials, watch a video on woman abuse, or just visit and participate in groups, Kroocmo explained.
“It will be a safe space,” she stressed.
“We will be able to provide abused women with a safety plan, a threat assessment, legal referrals, housing applications, etc.”
The Shelter of Hope currently is eyeing the former Bonnie Blue building on the 200 block of Scott Street as a possible site.
Kroocmo noted “our dream model” would include a soup kitchen for homeless people, operating on days when the current one (“Loaves and Fishes”) is not open.
“Some of the operational funding is coming out of DSSAB’s homelessness initiative, so we would have to accommodate that demographic somehow,” noted Kroocmo.
“And we do believe it’s a good fit for the work that we currently do, and may even alleviate some of the critique we face in that we do not provide a service to men or care about men at all,” she added.
In the front of the building, along with the soup kitchen, Kroocmo would like to provide a coffee and bakery shop, with lottery pull-tabs to provide ongoing operational funding of the centre.
In the back, with its own separate entrance as well as a safety door dividing the front from the back, would be a living-room style women’s drop-in centre, complete with a library and videos and a comfortable setting to just sit and talk.
In the basement, donations of household items, clothing, and furniture for abused women wanting to establish their own abuse-free lives could be stored.
And upstairs would be two independent units, with safe entry and enough beds in each one for a woman and her child/children to stay temporarily until they are able to access more permanent housing.
“Again, if she is at high-risk, does not have a job she cannot leave, or is not in school full-time, we would strongly encourage her to go to the shelter in Atikokan as that is the only place where we can be more assured of her safety, and we would provide free transportation to get her to the actual shelter,” noted Kroocmo.
“Safety is paramount.”
These units would be “very transitional” and subsidized rent would have to be charged for their use.
This would be for emergency housing only, she added.
But, of course, this all costs money.
“The specific dollar target we are seeking is difficult to ascertain because it will depend a lot on how much is required to fix up the building we choose for this purpose,” noted Kroocmo.
“There are codes and standards we would have to meet,” she explained.
“We can likely mortgage the purchase price, and include that payment in ongoing operational costs, but there is no funding available for bringing buildings up to code or to our standards.
“That is what we are fundraising for, and an actual amount is going to depend on the building chosen, but certainly we hope the people of Fort Frances will be pleased that we are wanting to choose something in a downtown, accessible location,” said Kroocmo.
She added several buildings have become rather dilapidated in the downtown core, and they would like to work on one of those in order to improve the overall impression for tourists and area residents alike.
“This will be a wonderful addition to the services currently provided, and a fresh look for at least one building in downtown Fort Frances, and a place for women, particularly working women or women in school, to call their own,” Kroocmo reasoned.
“Women in the west end of our district deserve this.”
Fundraising slated
The Shelter of Hope will be approaching donors in the future, and also will be holding fundraisers in the coming months.
For instances, an all-day women’s retreat is set for Saturday, Nov. 25 at the Copper River Inn here.
It will include speakers and presenters, including April Labbe of Energy Fitness, Diane Clifford (holistic health), Allene Perusse (mindfulness and meditation), and Lindsay Hamilton (art therapy session), with other potential additions.
“This event, and ongoing programming, is to bring together the women of our community,” said Shelter of Hope outreach worker Heather Johnson.
“We have so many local women with amazing talents, knowledge, resources, and abilities,” noted Johnson.
“Think about the strength we can bring to our community when we all have a place to come together in.”
Tickets cost $50 for the retreat.
“If someone is interested in going to retreat but can’t afford it, please contact us so we can help,” Johnson stressed.
Those interested in setting up an information booth, donating door prizes, or able to provide lunch-hour entertainment can contact Johnson at 271-5644.
Tickets also can be purchased by contacting her.
All proceeds will go towards the women’s resource centre and transitional housing here in Fort Frances.
A “Paint Nite” fundraiser also is in the works for the near future (date to be determined).
Other upcoming and ongoing programming will be the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” support groups for women in many capacities, a professional women’s group, engaging female youth in the community, and so much more, Johnson added.
Supporting causes
Friday’s $5,0000 donation was presented by Victor Gustafson, who said the Emo Food Bank & Thrift Shop board of directors has been very busy generating funds and giving that money away to good causes.
“The board of directors is very pleased to be able to give back to the people of Rainy River District and those in Canada that need support funding,” he said, noting in this case, the $5,000 will help kick-off the shelter’s fundraising campaign.
Gustafson stressed the food bank and thrift shop operate with two separate financial accounts; funds that have been donated to the food bank are used for food while money raised through the sale of donated items at the thrift store are redistributed to other worthy causes.
The Emo Food Bank & Thrift Shop recently donated $5,000 to the “Westend Food Bank” in Rainy River, which has been struggling to stay open, he noted.
It also donated $5,000 to the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council’s “Welcome Place” program, which assists refugee claimants who have come to Canada.
Earlier this year, it donated $5,000 to the Emo Hospital Auxiliary and the group annually has donated $500 to the Canadian Red Cross wildfire relief efforts in Alberta and B.C.
In December, 2015, $1,000 was donated to St. Mary’s Parish’s “Families for Families.”
For those who might not know, the Emo Food Bank & Thrift Shop is a charitable, non-profit corporation that operates out of the former Anglican Church in Emo.
The church building was donated to the organization four years ago, which has been very successful running the food bank and raising funds through the thrift shop since then.
“The community churches, individuals, and other organizations in our community have been very supportive,” said Gustafson.
“And we are very appreciative and proud to be part of the Rainy River District and the people who support our organization,” he added.
“People have been very supportive in donating household items and clothing to our thrift shop and food to the food bank,” Gustafson noted.
“We have some great volunteer teams who each week do an excellent job in the thrift shop and food bank.”
The thrift shop is open Wednesdays from noon-4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon.
Donations either to the thrift shop or the food bank are accepted.