Open Doors at St. Christopher's was the recipient of more than $10,000 at the Burlington chapter of 100 Women Who Care’s (100WWCB) November meeting Monday night at the Burlington Golf and Country Club.
Eight charities were nominated, and three presented: Open Doors, Comfort Bears and The Women’s Centre of Halton.
The funds will go a long way to help Open Doors, which for two decades has offering a variety of volunteer-driven programs to provide things like hot meals, child care respite for parents and a food bank. They believe all neighbours have a role in building a resilient community. Every person has a seat at the table.
Nominator Martha White said Open Doors coordinators can’t believe the increase in demand for food distributed through their community market that provides fresh, frozen and nutritious dry goods along with hygiene products and diapers.
Twenty per cent of Ontarians are experiencing food insecurity and that includes one in four children, said Shannon Shuell, good food coordinator for Open Doors.
“Food is a basic human right and yet it is one that is often sacrificed when struggling financially. The food support we provide in our outreach programs from our garden, market and meals, helps alleviate some of the burden when deciding between nutrition or pay a bill.”
In the last year, Open Doors grew 3,000 pounds of food to share with the community, prepare hot meals and at the twice-weekly market. They also prepared and shared more than 12,000 hot meals to the community.
“Even with all those amazing numbers, we have still seen an unbelievable surge in new users. With a 27 per cent increase in registration, our numbers are just increasing from there,” Shuell said. “To help us keep up with the demand, for the first time ever, Open Doors has had to limit the access of community market to people living in Burlington only.
“We are currently struggling to keep fresh nutritious food on our shelves every week, even with the assistance from our community partners. We rely heavily on our donations from within our community. And, as of October, our monetary donations are down 18.9 per cent from our previous year.
Shuell said that Ontario Living Wage Network has just reported an increase for the living wage for Burlington and it is now $25.05/hour. A living wage is the hourly wage an employee needs to earn to cover basic expenses and participate in the community.
“Considering that our minimum wage is $16.55 cents (per hour), the gap is growing,” she added.
The Women’s Centre of Halton which treats women in crisis or transition, also presented at the meeting. Executive director Kate Holmes said the organization has been empowering women since 1981.
“The women we help are women just like you and me,” she said, noting the Women’s Centre differs from Halton Women’s Place in that it provides pre- and post-shelter support, while the latter provides the support.
Holmes said that they are hearing an astronomical level of stories of domestic abuse, at epidemic levels. The Women's Centre provides long-term solutions to help address some of the risk factors. “We empower women and remove a place for Intimate Partner Violence to hide.”
Meanwhile, Comfort Bears was nominated for a third time and this was their second presentation. Debb Fioravanti said the bears help children facing trauma by providing them with a cuddly teddy bear.
“They provide joy and comfort to those in need,” she said. The bears provide a sense of comfort when little else will do, Fioravaniti said, noting the trauma could be caused by grief, illness, suicide or other difficult life experiences. They could face trauma from a vehicle collision, child abuse, home violence or a death in the family.
She gave the example of children “at Mac Kids Hospital who’ve experienced things no child should have to face. The bear becomes an intricate part of their healing journey.”
Comfort Bears replace stress with comfort and hope. Their only source of funding is through volunteers who raise money.
100WWCB will celebrate its 10th anniversary in January with a special event at the Burlington Golf and Country Club - details to follow.
100WWCB meets for about one hour, four times a year, when three registered charities that serve Burlington or Halton are nominated. Each group makes a short presentation outlining how they would use funds. Members then vote to determine who will receive the pool of donations from the membership for that quarter.
Each member makes a tax-deductible donation of $100 (or $50 for those under 30) to the charity of choice. The goal of the Burlington group is to collectively generate a minimum of $40,000 annually for local charitable initiatives, creating a powerful impact as a result. Since 2014, the local chapter has supported 35 local charities with total donations of $211,445.
Facilitator Lisa Bilodeau said Burlington’s 100 women who care continues to grow its membership, adding 48 new members in 2023 to bring the total to more than 120 members. Not including the November meeting, they’ve raised $31,680 in 2023, impacting some 38 charities.
Last month’s recipient was Darling Home for Kids, which received $12,280 – the highest donation that 100 Women Who Care has made to date and based on the number of members then.
To join 100 Women Who Care’s Burlington chapter, visit https://100womenwhocareburlington.com/