The gentle cascades of a waterfall in a room with soft lighting and comfortable seating; a sanctuary where women escaping abusive relationships can rest their battered bodies and souls and find some much-needed peace.
This is what Telegram readers are helping to provide through this year’s Warm Hearts campaign.
Held throughout February, The Telegram’s annual campaign — now in its third year — raises money and articles of warm clothing for the women and children who are victims of domestic violence seeking shelter at Iris Kirby House in St. John’s. The project ends each year with the “Stars for Warm Hearts” gala concert, hosted in 2014 by comedians Mark Critch and Shaun Majumder, with all profits going towards the cause.
The 2014 campaign had a special focus on blankets, and readers donated crocheted and knitted 8x8-inch squares, to be turned into quilts and given to the shelter’s residents.
Monday afternoon, Iris Kirby House staff visited The Telegram, where they were presented with a cheque for almost $8,000, raised through this year’s Warm Hearts campaign.
Gail Tobin, Iris Kirby House’s executive director, said the money from this year’s donation will be used to establish a water fountain in the new wing of the shelter, which is currently under renovation. When completed, the wing will see an additional 10 emergency bedrooms and four self-contained units added to the facility, which provides not only shelter, but counselling and other programming for victims of domestic violence.
In addition to the cheque, Telegram readers and staff donated more than 1,000 handmade blanket squares, which are being sewn together with the help of local knitters and donated to Iris Kirby House over the year. More than 2,500 items of new winter clothing were also collected.
Tobin spoke of the importance of the awareness created by the Warm Hearts campaign.
“Every year, as soon as the ads start running in The Telegram, we see an increase in the number of calls to our crisis line,” she explained. “It’s validation for the women, and it lets them know they have the support of a caring community.”
Women seeking shelter at Iris Kirby House could be anyone, Tobin said. In recent months, the facility has seen residents escaping the local sex trade, women in their 90s leaving abusive relationships for the first time, and everyone in between.
“When we talk about warming hearts with this project, we mean the hearts of the women and children recipients, but also those of the people who contribute,” said Telegram arts and life reporter Tara Bradbury, who initiated the campaign after writing a series of stories about domestic violence in late 2011. “I am so thankful to Telegram readers and staff who contributed to the campaign, and they should feel proud that they truly have helped to give some comfort to victims of domestic violence, and let them know they have support in moving forward to a life free of abuse.”
Actress Lynda Boyd, star of CBC-TV’s “Republic of Doyle,” has been patron of the Warm Hearts project since the beginning.
“When I first came to Newfoundland, one of the things I noticed is that women treat other women differently here than they do in other places. They’re much kinder,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in this campaign to help women, because you never know who’s suffering. The gal who does my nails had a black eye the other day.
“I’m fortunate that I’ve never needed the services of a shelter like Iris Kirby House, but so many women do. It’s such a worthwhile cause.”
The date for next year’s “Stars for Warm Hearts” show, hosted by Mark Critch, has been set for Feb. 28 at Holy Heart Theatre.