A week ago, one local woman was lying on her couch at home as she had done for months, wondering, she said, how she would ever be able to escape the abuse she suffered at the hands of her partner for years.
A new resident of Iris Kirby House, on Friday afternoon she said she was feeling “overwhelmed, heartwarmed and on an absolute high.”
The staff at the house, a St. John’s shelter for women and their children leaving abusive relationships, held a reception Friday to recognize The Telegram’s Warm Hearts campaign and in celebration of February being Violence Prevention Month in Newfoundland and Labrador. Residents, former residents and their children were treated to lunch and a visit by Warm Hearts patron Lynda Boyd of “Republic of Doyle.”
The women and kids were also provided with pyjamas and other items of winter clothing, generously donated over the past week by Telegram readers. Their appreciation was overwhelming.
“It’s been a wonderful, fantastic day. A beautiful day. The best day I’ve had in years,” one resident said.
Now in its second year, Warm Hearts aims to raise awareness and funds for Iris Kirby House, as well as provide items of winter clothing for its residents, and the residents of its sister shelter, O’Shaughnessy House in Carbonear.
Since the project began last month, it has already had an effect, said Iris Kirby House executive director Gail Tobin.
“Since the launch of the campaign, more women have been reaching out to us. There have been more calls to our distress line and more admissions,” she said. “Women are realizing they have a safe place to go.”
Iris Kirby House offers 22 rooms where women leaving violent home lives can stay until they get back on their feet, as well as counselling, empowerment group sessions, second-stage housing, referrals and a support network to help them transition into a better place in life.
“I am so glad I get to be a part of these women’s transformational journeys,” said Boyd after her visit. “I feel grateful to have met the residents at Iris Kirby House today, this being the first day of Violence Prevention Month. These are women of great courage.”
Warm Hearts will continue until the end of February, and anyone wishing to participate can drop off pyjamas, blankets, housecoats, socks, slippers, underwear, hats, scarves and mittens for women and children (new items only, please) as well as personal hygiene items to The Telegram office in the Village Mall. Donations of pennies — which will no longer be in circulation after Monday — are also being accepted.
Boyd will be appearing at Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road from 1-4 p.m. today to sign autographs and accept donations for Warm Hearts.
The campaign will culminate in the Stars for Warm Hearts concert at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre Feb. 23, featuring Shanneyganock, Repartee, comedian John Sheehan, Chris Kirby and the Marquee, Mary Barry, Jerry Stamp, Ian Foster, Evry7th, the Neighbourhood Strays and Atlantic Union. Tickets are $30 (tax and surcharge included) and are available online at www.artandculturecentre.com.