A home away from home
Expanding women’s centre gives hope and opportunity to women in need
In a cramped basement beneath the Justice Resource Centre at 583 Ellice Ave., a warm, safe, educational space sees at least 50 women come through its doors every month. But thanks to two years of fundraising and collecting donations, the West Central Women’s Resource Centre (WCWRC) is looking to move down the street to its very own larger, street-front location at 640 Ellice Ave.
With nearly two-thirds of their $950,000 goal already raised from a mix of individual and corporate donors like Great West Life, a fundraising concert is planned for Friday, Feb. 5 at the West End Cultural Centre, featuring musical acts Nathan and Nova.
The WCWRC, founded in 2001, is an organization that gives women of all walks of life, socio-economic statuses and familial responsibilities an opportunity to connect with and learn from those around them.
“With all the women that come through the door, there’s so much shared knowledge, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” said community mentor Katherine McGregor. “If you took all the experiences of all the people in that room out there, you would have an encyclopedia of knowledge.”
A single mother, McGregor began as a participant at the centre, coming for advice on housing, childcare and community services, and to interact with others while sharing a cup of coffee during drop-in times. But in December of last year she became one of the nearly 30 women who not only use the centre’s resources but volunteer to help others in the close-knit group.
“Coming here is the first step in empowering yourself to change,” said McGregor. “You might not be strong enough to do it by yourself right now, but we’ll hold your hand until you can.”
The WCWRC has suffered due to its small space and reduced visibility created by the windowless lower-level location, despite success from operating multiple programs simultaneously, including Childminding, which provides child-care training and placements in paying short-term services.
“We’re hidden here,” said executive director Jackie Hogue.
For the centre, the outpouring of support from donors both large and small sends a message of support for what the centre brings to the community.
“To some funders we’ve said, ‘Thank you for your gift of $40,000,’ and they’ve said, ‘Thank you for existing,’” said Hogue.
That appreciation isn’t always at the forefront of society, according to Fiona Green, who is chair of the University of Winnipeg’s women and gender studies department and co-director of the Institute for Women and Gender Studies.
“Women’s resource centres are definitely filling a need, but I don’t think there’s necessarily an awareness of the need for them,” she said.
Green believes that aside from those who need and use community-based services like the WCWRC, centres are vastly under-appreciated for the front-line work they do in critical areas like violence against women and single-parenting skills.
“There’s a whole feeling that feminism isn’t needed,” said Green. “People think that women have equal rights, but the needs of the people that are using the services these centres provide have been marginalized.”
Published in Volume 64, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2010)