Maggie's - where every dollar will make a difference 0
The United Way Sale in Bancroft on May 5 is packed and that's good news for Maggie's Resource Centre in Bancroft. Although the financial contribution each year from the United Way is only a small portion of their annual budget, every little bit counts.
Staff from Maggie's are helping with the sale that offers donated Proctor and Gamble products at a massive discount. People are moving through the line at a rapid pace thanks to all the volunteers.
On May 12, the team will be out again working at the De-Clutter for a Cause National Garage Sale for Shelter. It's a program run by the local realtors at Royal LePage Frank Real Estate and funds go towards our local women's shelter, to education and to violence prevention programs in our community.
And once again, every little bit counts.
Maggie's has been in Bancroft for 28 years, opening after the closure of the Madawaska Mines.
Maggie's provides a variety of services for abused women, including safe placement for those who are fleeing abusive relationships. The agency also actively promotes programming focused on breaking the cycle of violence with high risk families. They work in partnership with other community agencies.
All services are free and confidential.
Services offered include crisis intervention, safety planning, transitional housing support, counselling, safe placement and transportation for women and their children leaving abusive relationships, advocacy, and referrals to health, legal and income support resource centres and advocacy with legal and social services.
It's a lot of work for a small, underfunded team but the women who run the centre keep doing what they can- including these multiple community events to raise just a few more dollars.
Each year 204 women are helped by the centre.
Some come in once or are helped on the phone while others require more support. Each woman is supported in a unique way.
Sarah Phoenix is the executive director of Maggie's and she explains that women are dealing with all kinds of abuse- not just physical violence. And when there's abuse, they are there to help.
Simple things like gas money, diapers and cell phone cards are all needed in crisis situations and Phoenix says around $50 per family can sometimes make the difference between a woman being able to get to safety and having to stay in harm's way.
This money is not provided in their operating budget as an agency supported by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. They have to raise it on their own.
"And we're not just a crisis service," Phoenix explains.
The centre and the women who work there help women understand their rights, they do advocacy work and they help women understand their options so they can make choices.
"We're not a cookie cutter organization," Phoenix says.
"It is exhausting sometimes because we haven't gained back what was lost in the Harris years and the new provincial budget will make it worse- attacking the poorest of the poor," Phoenix explains.
So for those women she helps, Phoenix is forced out to raise more money. They need the cash to help but being forced to raise the cash can take valuable staff away from the front lines.
"It's about living free from violence, that's what we're about," Phoenix says. "We're not government- we're underfunded and that's the difficult piece."
And at a time when everyone locally is focused on lack of financial resources, there has been some talk about how local dollars are spent.
The local policing budget is a hot button issue and it has been suggested by the local staff sergeant as well as the Mayor at the Bancroft budget meeting that if domestic violence were dealt with by local agencies before it escalates to requiring police involvement that dollars could be saved.
Phoenix speaks to this in a gentle way.
"I support the OPP's policies," she says. "They have access to the best training and if the OPP refer to us we can all work together."
"The reality is the police are the only people who can legally help you - the only sector that is given the power to keep people safe," Phoenix says. "No matter what, we encourage people to call 911 if there is a risk to safety."
Turning the conversation back to some of what they provide to women, Phoenix explains that because they serve all of North Hastings and Cardiff they have a big need for transportation.
"We believe in a woman's right to access justice so we have to get them to court and to legal aid," Phoenix explains.
Whatever the women need that is outside of Bancroft, transportation is provided to get them there.
Each year the small team at Maggie's provides 2,380 hours in direct counselling and 350 hours of housing support. There is no affordable housing in our area outside of social housing sites so many rural women are forced to live in poverty Phoenix says.
It's overwhelming but Phoenix says the goal is to end violence.
It's a long and difficult journey towards the goal and after 28 years the need is just as great as ever.
"We want people to know about the service- not necessarily because they need it but because they might know someone who needs it," Phoenix says. "We are here and we want to have no barriers."
But without adequate funding the challenge is to remain proactive and preventative in action as opposed to being reactionary.
"No matter what, we want women to seek out help," Phoenix says.
And as for the local OPP, Phoenix says Maggie's is here to provide support, education and to help them lower their costs by working together. And Maggie's will do this even if it's not in their own budget. They will participate in events and continue to raise funds to help because that's what it takes to keep local women safe.
The De-Clutter for a Cause National Garage Sale for Shelter runs on May 12 from 9 to 3 pm at the Royal LePage Frank Real Estate Bancroft Office parking Lot at 51 Hastings Street North. All proceeds of the sale help women and children in our community safely escape violence.