“It was so emotional and happy for the women, you could just tell by their faces,” said Gail Tobin, Iris Kirby Houseʼs executive director. “Itʼs so empowering for them to know that Lynda took the time from her busy schedule to come and spend time with them. They felt so comfortable.”
Iris Kirby House is a 22-bed facility for women and children fleeing domestic relationships, which runs at 89 per cent capacity, on average.
February is typically the facilityʼs busiest month, due in part to the stress of Christmas bills coming in and the dead of winter, which can often exacerbate mental illness.
If there are issues of drug or alcohol dependence in a household, they can get worse in February, often leading to more volatile situations, Tobin told The Telegram. More than just a shelter, Iris Kirby House provides the women with an entire support network and the tools necessary to transition, if they choose, into a new life free of violence.
The Telegram launched the Warm Hearts campaign at the beginning of January, with the goal of collecting pyjamas, blankets, housecoats, socks, slippers, underwear, hats, mittens and scarves (new items only) in a range of women and childrenʼs sizes, as well as personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste for Iris Kirby House residents.
The campaign has received a tremendous amount of public support and so far has seen more than 200 pairs of pyjamas, 350 pairs of underwear, about 500 pairs of socks and close to 100 each of scarves, mittens and hats donated to the shelter, as well as hundreds of other winter clothing items.
“Itʼs very kind of everyone, and it has made us feel so loved and welcomed,” one resident told The Telegram during Fridayʼs reception. “Nobody ever prays to be in this situation, but itʼs good to know that other people care. It makes a difficult situation a lot better. I cannot quantify what the support here means to me.”
The woman said the pyjamas she received warmed her heart and soul. “Itʼs warm flannel for the cold, yes, but itʼs also symbolic of the warmth of Newfoundlanders to strangers,” she said. Some of the donations were collected as part of a Warm Hearts drive by Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road. Boyd held an autograph-signing at the supermarket last weekend, where she was approached by more than a few women who shared their stories of abuse. “The stigma and shame that some of these women have felt have led them to keep it a secret for a long time,” Boyd said.
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- - Help Warm Hearts this winter
“Secrets rot the soul, and the women have done nothing wrong. Theyʼre the victims, and thereʼs no need for them to be ashamed.”
On Friday, Boyd and The Telegram will present Stars for Warm Hearts, a benefit concert for Iris Kirby House, at the St. Johnʼs Arts and Culture Centre.
Each of the performers is volunteering their time and talents for the event, including The Novaks, Chris Kirby and the Marquee, Jerry Stamp, comedian John Sheehan, Ian Foster, Mary Barry, the Neighbourhood Strays bellydance troupe, Repartee and The Long Distance Runners, as well as Mark Critch, Shaun Majumder, Rick Mercer, Jeanne Beker and others who have videotaped messages and skits for the event.
Boyd will host the show and sing with The Dukes of Doyle, a band made up of crew members from “Republic of Doyle.” All proceeds raised from the show will go to Iris Kirby House.
“I canʼt wait for the show. Iʼm sure the spirit of the Warm Hearts campaign will fill the Arts and Culture Centre to the max,” Boyd said.
Tickets for Stars for Warm Hearts are $36 (taxes and fees included) and are on sale now at the St. Johnʼs Arts and Culture Centre box office, online at www.artsandculturecentre.com or by calling 729-3900.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Warm Hearts campaign can drop their items off at The Telegramʼs office in the Village mall by Feb. 29. Monetary donations can be made directly to Iris Kirby House by calling 722-8272.
To buy tickets to the Stars for Warm Hearts benefit, click here.