This year, you can also knit donations for the cause
If you live in Newfoundland and Labrador, whether you’re aware of it or not, you know at least one woman who has suffered physical or sexual violence. Chances are very good you know more than one.
Gail Tobin, executive director of Iris Kirby House, looks over items collected last year during The Telegram's Warm Hearts campaign. — File photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Half of the women in this province age 15 years and older will experience at least one incident of violence in their lifetime, according to statistics compiled by the province in the past five years or so. Only about 10 per cent of these women will report the victimization to the police.
February is traditionally the worst of all months when it comes to incidents of domestic violence and abuse, and the women’s shelters in the province often run at full capacity the month long. The majority of the women and children staying in the shelters are escaping both physical and psychological abuse.
For the third year in a row, The Telegram is launching its Warm Hearts campaign in aid of Iris Kirby House, a St. John’s shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. While we are collecting financial donations, the campaign is about much more: throughout February, we will also be collecting donations of pyjamas, hats, mittens, scarves, socks, underwear and blankets (new only, please) in a range of women’s and children’s sizes, as well as personal hygiene products, like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, which will be provided to residents of the shelter to give them some warmth and comfort during an undoubtedly frightening and unsettling time in their lives.
This year, we’re also asking you to get out your knitting needles and odds and ends of leftover yarn. We will be collecting knitted and crocheted squares, which we will sew together into blankets and donate to Iris Kirby House. Make your squares 8 by 8 inches (20 x 20 cm) each, in any pattern you choose, and darn the ends in, but leave a 20-inch “tail” to allow us to sew them together.
New locally owned yarn shop Cast on! Cast off! at 685 Water St. in St. John’s (across from Victoria Park) has come on board as a sponsor of this year’s Warm Hearts campaign. Mention you’re knitting for the campaign and you’ll receive 10 per cent off your purchases there.
Anyone who drops a donation off at The Telegram offices, upstairs in the Village Mall, or at Cast On! Cast Off! will be entered to win a variety of prizes, including tickets to our annual Stars for Warm Hearts gala, which will take place at the end of the month, featuring comedian/actor Mark Critch and more of the province’s best and award-winning talent. More details about the show will be announced in the coming weeks.
In the past two years, with the help of campaign patron Lynda Boyd of “Republic of Doyle,” Warm Hearts has raised more than $15,000 for Iris Kirby House — including about $9,000 in pennies alone, collected last year — as well as about 5,000 items of new clothing for its residents. The money raised will go towards programming at the shelter, as well as renovations. Iris Kirby House is in the midst of an expansion, which will see the addition of 10 emergency beds and four self-contained units adjoined to the property.
“I speak with confidence when I say I cannot stress the importance of the public awareness that is realized through the Warm Hearts campaign,” said Gail Tobin, executive director of Iris Kirby House.
“Women have told us that reading the articles in The Telegram have given them the encouragement and strength to reach out to us. Many victims contact us during the campaign to seek shelter, others to talk about their current situation, and we also hear from women who have moved on from a previous relationship but share their stories, often to receive the necessary support they may still need.
“This campaign allows domestic violence to be talked about in an open forum, one that is nurturing and caring in nature and that validates for women who are being victimized that they have a choice and there are people in society who do sincerely care and support them in moving forward to a life free of abuse.”
Warm Hearts was inspired by a series of stories The Telegram’s arts and life reporter Tara Bradbury wrote in 2011 about domestic violence, called “Violence at Home.”
“I’ve spent the past 10 years as a journalist making sure not to get attached to the stories I write, but when I first visited the shelter for the series I was writing and met women — seniors, some of them — with all kinds of physical and emotional bruises, well, how do you just walk away from that?,” Bradbury said after last year’s campaign.
Read the series online at www.thetelegram.com