Women’s centre draws kudos

Duane Hicks

The new Fort Frances Women’s Centre opened its doors to an enthusiastic response last Thursday.
The drop-in centre, located at 330 Scott St., offers a comfortable atmosphere for women of all ages and their children to stop by, socialize, take a break, conduct workshops, and, if they’re entrepreneurs and artists, to display and sell their wares.
“It’s really wonderful,” said local resident Cathie Sinninghe, who sat down to have coffee with a friend after taking a tour of the centre.
“The atmosphere is welcoming,” she noted. “It’s really nice to see a place that women can just drop in.
“And it gives women entrepreneurs a place to display their products.
“It’s very homey and comfortable,” Sinninghe added.
Fort Frances Couns. June Caul and Wendy Brunetta stopped by the centre during Thursday’s grand opening.
“Considering we have the ‘Me Too’ movement going on now in the media, it brings women to the forefront, for sure,” said Coun. Caul.
“And this is a way of Fort Frances bringing women to the forefront–making sure there is a safe and comfortable place where you have friendly people spending time with you if you need that opportunity,” she remarked.
“Beyond that, I think it’s a great place to showcase women’s talents with all of the displays,” echoed Coun. Brunetta.
“It’s also a place where people can just come in, sit and relax,” she added. “You don’t necessarily have to have a reason. It’s just nice to sit and visit.
“I really hope they do well and people support them,” noted Coun. Brunetta.
Coun. Caul recalled meeting key volunteer Heather Johnson back in November, who relayed her dream of opening a women’s centre here.
“It’s so nice to see that, through all of that hard work, dreams have come true,” she said.
Coun. Caul advised that the women’s centre will have to be marketed by the people who are interested in it.
“It might be a little bit slow to start with,” she noted. “But I am hoping those that are here today are going to bring a friend the next time and think about giving a donation once in a while to help them keep it open.
“It’s a very important space for women. They can even bring their children here,” Coun. Caul added.
“That’s a big deal if you’re needing to feed your baby, or it’s cold outside and you have a little one with you and you want to come inside and sit and warm up.”
“I want to congratulate them. They’ve done a great job,” said Coun. Brunetta.
“I really ask the community to come and support it.”
Mary Martinson, one of the primary volunteers at the centre along with Johnson and Monica Sus, said the traffic flow Thursday was steady and the reception overwhelmingly positive.
She noted several representatives from various organizations dropped in to wish them well, and offered to work together with the centre, while other people looked at items for sale and offered up ideas for what to do at the centre.
One woman walked in through the door, and walked back and forth for a while before telling Martinson, “I feel so comfortable in here.”
“And that’s what we want,” she enthused.
“The centre has done in the first day almost everything that we’ve wanted,” chimed in Sus.
“We thought it was going to be a ‘soft opening’ but it turned out to be fantastic,” added Martinson.
The primary entrepreneur operating out of the centre is Melinda Wickstrom, owner of “Melinda’ Unique Boutique.”
Wickstrom urged women to drop by her clothing store and see all she has to offer.
“It’s all very unique. It’s one-of-a-kind stuff,” she explained, noting customers definitely will not find what she has in other local clothing stores.
“It’s some vintage, some new,” Wickstrom added. “You can find pretty much anything here for women–dresses, purses, belts, socks. Everything.”
Wickstrom said she’s proud to be located at the new women’s centre, which she wholeheartedly supports.
“It’ a great idea. It’s wonderful,” she remarked. “Everything’s incorporated and it brings women together.
“I love it. It’s something the community needs and think this is a great place to start.”
The plan is for Wickstrom to get well-established and eventually move to a retail location of her own.
Then another woman entrepreneur can set up shop at the front of the women’s centre and follow the same successful path.
Sus urged women entrepreneurs interested in renting a cubbie shelf at the centre, or having artwork displayed for sale on the walls, for example, to drop by and speak with her or give her a call at 271-2839.
The women’s centre is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.