It's one thing to visit Iris Kirby House - it's another thing to have to live there because your own home just isn't safe anymore.
A visit to the St. John's shelter as part of a series on domestic violence spurred a Telegram reporter to initiate a campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence and collect small items of comfort for women and child victims.
In December, Telegram arts and lifestyles reporter Tara Bradbury visited Iris Kirby House as part of her three-part series "Violence at Home," and felt compelled to try to help in some way.
"While the facility is lovely, it hurt my heart to see women of all ages, many of them with small children, forced to stay there to avoid abuse and violence in their own homes," Bradbury said.
"I hate to think of how much they might have endured, what those children saw, and how long the older ladies might have put up with the situation before choosing to get out. I wanted to do something to provide some kind of comfort during what has to be a very stressful and scary time for them."
To that end, The Telegram is launching its Warm Hearts Campaign for Iris Kirby House, collecting pyjamas, blankets, underwear, socks, slippers, housecoats, hats, scarves, mittens in various sizes for women and children (new items only), as well as Tim Hortons gift cards - all things the shelter can use to provide warmth to its residents this winter.
The official patron of the campaign is "Republic of Doyle" actress Lynda Boyd.
"Life is challenging for all of us, but no one should live in fear in their own home. Home is supposed to be the shelter from the stuff out there," Boyd said.
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"It occurred to me that kindness and compassion, no matter where it comes from, have the ability to help someone who feels helpless begin to heal. I would like to be a part in some way of contributing to that healing, in any way I can.
"The women who can break the cycle and find their true place in the world, I pray for them, that they can remember just how amazingly powerful they really are."
Iris Kirby House is a 22-bed shelter where women and children fleeing abusive relationships can stay until they get back on their feet. More than just a home, the shelter provides a support network to help them transition, if they choose, into a new life.
February is typically the facility's busiest time of year, said executive director Gail Tobin.
"Christmas is over, and the bills are coming in from the Christmas season. If there's a history of abuse, often we see that it can escalate around that time," she said, adding couples often pull together to make it work over the holiday season.
"You'll see our stats spike in February, and they'll stay like that well into March."
The women who stay at the shelter generally have been stripped of their self-esteem by their abusers, Tobin said, and love and support - even from strangers in the community - can mean the world to them.
"I want the public to know that an important step in the healing process of any woman who's been abused is to know that she has the support of an entire caring community - that's paramount in their moving forward in the healing process," she explained. "It might be a pair of underwear, but boy, does that mean something to that woman. You see that smile on her face, you see that confidence. It might only be for that second, but that builds and builds and builds."
Those wishing to donate to the Warm Hearts campaign can drop their items off at The Telegram's offices, upstairs in the Village Shopping Centre.
Monetary donations can be made directly to Iris Kirby House by calling 722-8272.
A tally of donations will be kept and regular updates will be published in The Telegram over the course of the project.
The Telegram is pleased to support Iris Kirby House, said publisher Charlie Stacey.
"The Telegram is only too glad to get behind this very worthy cause. This institution provides an invaluable service to the community and I would encourage everyone to donate what they can to aid in the positive work of Iris Kirby House," he said.
"I would also like to thank The Telegram staff, particularly arts reporter Tara Bradbury, for initiating the Warm Hearts Campaign. Thanks, as well, goes to Lynda Boyd for taking time out of her busy schedule to act as patron for this very worthwhile campaign."
To read Tara Bradbury's three-part series "Violence at Home," visit http://bit.ly/xw2uaD .