Eastern Star rises to challenge

The Order of the Eastern Star raised over $300 for the transition house through a 50 cent per pair levy on shoes that they own.

Connie Marchal (left) of the Boundary Women’s Transition House accepts a cheque for $350 from Sharon Hamer

The sage encouragement to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes might come to mind when you first hear of the Shoe Challenge. The challenge was one this year’s fundraising projects of the Order of the Eastern Star, the largest fraternal organization for men and women in the world.

The challenge was issued to Eastern Star members by the provincial head of the organization, known as the Worthy Grand Matron, whom each year gets to choose their own pet project which chapters from B.C. and the Yukon will then fundraise toward. Last year it was BC Children’s Hospital.

“But this year our current Worthy Grand Matron wanted the money to stay in the community,” said Sharon Hamer, Worthy Matron for the local chapter, Evangeline #31 in Grand Forks. “Instead of us giving her money for her project she asked that we raise some money within our own chapters and give it locally to women’s and children’s shelters, or transition houses, or something to do with women in crisis.”

So the Shoe Challenge was announced with members being asked to donate 50 cents for every pair of shoes in their house. They brought in $316.50 that was turned over to Connie Marchal, director of the Boundary Women’s Transition House (BWTH) at the chapter’s December meeting. Marchal was both appreciative and intrigued, commenting the amount of money represents “a lot of shoes.”

She outlined the work of BWTH, explaining that to date this year they have provided 912 overnight stays to women and children fleeing abuse or at risk of abuse.

“Women don’t have to stay at the transition house in order to receive services from the outreach worker. We also have a Stopping the Violence (STV) counsellor who is in Grand Forks three days a week and every Wednesday in the West Boundary; and we participate in a sexual assault response team that works with Victim Services, RCMP and the hospital.”

The BWTH serves the entire Boundary, which is over 6,000 square kilometres stretching from Christina Lake to Beaverdell.

“It is a lot of little communities for a transition house that is funded for only six beds to serve,” Marchal said.

When Marchal started over 20 years ago, volunteers staffed the BWTH. While that is still the case at the downtown Boundary Women’s Resource Centre, the transition house now has staff trained across a multitude of disciplines: suicide prevention, first aid, counselling, drug and alcohol training, mental health. The transition house now also has services for men as well in the form of legal services.

BWTH receives major funding from BC Housing for the transition house and has two other contracts with the Solicitor General that deliver the outreach and Stopping the Violence programs. They also work closely with other community organizations such as Boundary Family and Individual Services Society to make sure the needed resources are provided.

“We don’t give advice, we help a woman see her choices,” Marchal said. “We identify some options and support them in whatever they want.

“Our current huge new endeavour is to expand our T-House services to include second stage housing. The Second Stage Program provides not only long-term housing but also a range of services including on-site safety planning, emotional support, referrals to counselling, assistance in accessing income assistance, health care, food programs, money management, as well as, assistance in applying for educational opportunities. Women are far less likely to return to their abusive partner once they have completed the Second Stage Program which is typically offered for 12-24 months.”

Are you aware of how many women have died in B.C. in the past year from domestic violence? So far this year, B.C. has stood witness to a brutal outbreak of domestic violence-related murders, attempted murders and suicides that have left 18 people dead. Among the deceased are 12 women, five men (four of these were offenders who committed suicide) and one child. There were another 11 people injured. Twelve men have been charged with murder or attempted murder of their female partners and one man charged with the murder of his ex-partner’s current boyfriend.

“Statistics like these can reaffirm our commitment to carry on this vital work,” Marchal said. “The Boundary Women’s Transition House is grateful for the community partners we have and today our thanks go out to Evangeline #31.” Contact the Boundary Women’s Transition House at 250-442-3131 or toll-free 1-855-441- 3131

Evangeline #31 was instituted in 1922. Members travel from Greenwood, Midway, Montrose, Nelson and Rock Creek for a monthly meeting at the Masonic Hall on Market Avenue in Grand Forks.

Hamer explained that the Shoe Challenge helps Evangeline #31 have a higher profile in the community. The Order of the Eastern Star comes to Greenwood each Founder’s Day to raise funds through their bake sale and information table.