For the month of December, our Community Initiative of the Month is West Central Women's Resource Centre!
West Central Women’s Resource Centre empowers women, and their community, to move from where they are to where they want to be, by providing responsive programming, facilitating knowledge sharing and connection, and contributing to culture shift and policy transformation. Their vision is a sustainable community that is equitable and peaceful, where women’s knowledge and experience is valued and respected – recognizing that we cannot build it without first having the courage to imagine it.
We had the opportunity to ask Denise MacDonald, Director of Communications and Fundraising, some questions about West Central Women's Resource Centre so we could learn more about the important work they do in our community.
Tell us about West Central Women's Resource Centre.
The West Central Women’s Resource Centre has been offering supports and services for women and their families for 19 years on Ellice Avenue. Over the years we have grown from just a handful of staff, to a team of over 30 now, to meet the growing and complex needs in our community. In our drop-in, we offer access to supports and services that meet basic needs such as hot meals, a shower, laundry, hygiene products, traditional medicines, computer, phone access, referral to programs, and a community space where all women are welcome. From there, women can access our one-to-one programs such as settlement services, housing supports, employment and training programs, gender-based violence supports, Indigenous programming, and more. We see over 24,000 visits to our Centre every year, helping empower women, and their community, to move from where they are to where they want to be.
Tell us about how you empower women, and their community, to move from where they are to where they want to be.
We work with an empowerment framework where we meet women where they are, without judgement, and work closely with them to build capacity to allow them to set goals and achieve those goals. By empowering women to make the changes they want to see in their lives themselves, we are building capacity that has a ripple effect in our community as these women take on leadership and caregiving roles. We are community-led, which means that it’s the community that decides what our priorities are. We work with a multi-system model, meaning we work simultaneously in the individual, family, community and systemic levels to ensure we are moving the needle on gender equality, which will benefit all women, trans, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming people.
One of our favourite stories is of Jolene, a single mother who was homeless for 15 years when she heard that WCWRC was a place where she could access free shampoo. When she walked in the doors, she found not only the supplies she needed, but a community where she felt she belonged. From there, she started volunteering with us and taking our training such as Women Empowering Women Into Leadership and Red Road to Healing. From there, she became a paid mentor in the Centre, which led to her successfully landing a full-time position as our Community Connector and now Coordinator of Restoring the Balance. Now she can help women who face many of the challenges she faced. We will always remember the day she came in with her letter from social assistance saying she no longer needed the program because she could finally support herself. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. That letter is framed and on her wall still today as a testament to her courage and strength.
How has Covid-19 impacted West Central Women's Resource Centre and the work you do in the community?
The pandemic has had an enormous impact on how we do our work. Normally, our drop-in space is a bustling community hub where women can come to break isolation, make life-long friends, and find peer support. Now, with Code Red in place, we can only offer services at the door. But we are still providing hot meals, access to hygiene items, access to warm clothes, and other assistance. Early in the pandemic, we saw that for the women in our community, the order to stay home was simply not possible. They do not have the resources to stock up on essentials and many do not have a home at all. So with some quick-thinking and creativity, we pivoted our resources to offer food hamper deliveries to people’s homes and sent out an outreach van to support those experiencing homelessness. We also saw that for women experiencing domestic violence, staying at home could be very dangerous. So we increased our ability to offer support for those experiencing gender-based violence, helping many find ways out of their situations when possible. It has been a challenge, but we are so proud of our staff and our community for stepping up to meet it and keep each other safe and well.
Why are the services provided by West Central Women's Resource Centre so essential for those who receive the services?
Our Centre is located in one of the poorest postal codes in Canada. The women we support are Indigenous, newcomers to Canada, single mothers, seniors, and/or living with disabilities. We are the only women-serving agency in our area and we normally see over 24,000 visits per year. This year, our services are even more essential as so many agencies and resources have either closed their doors or limited services in the pandemic.
Is there anywhere specific the funds coming in from our Charity of the Month initiative will go?
The funds raised this December will go towards food hampers that we deliver to women and their families. This allows women living in poverty – including those who have recently lost employment due to the pandemic – to self-isolate when needed and afford much-needed groceries and essential needs for themselves and their children.
A portion of sales from all cupcakes from both in-store pick up at our shop on Academy and from SkipTheDishes from Academy and The Forks will be donated to the West Central Women's Resource Centre throughout the month of December. To learn more about West Central Women's Resource Centre, click here.