Community members once again pulled together to support and celebrate the work of Island Women Against Violence on Thursday, when the third annual $10,000 for Change fundraiser exceeded its goal to become the best one yet for the organization.
The event aims to raise at least $10,000 through sponsorships and tickets to the farm-to-table meal, which was hosted for the second year at Stowel Lake Farm, plus a silent auction and raffle. Organizers reported near the end of Thursday’s dinner the total was in fact approaching $18,000. This will support community programs and housing for women and their children fleeing abuse, as well as people who are experiencing poverty.
IWAV’s interim director Kisae Petersen reported Thursday the non-profit society now has 24 staff members working at five work sites on Salt Spring, which include the Transition House, second stage housing and the Croftonbrook affordable housing development.
“Over time we’ve really expanded the work that we do, the services that we’re able to do and the impact we’re able to have in our community,” Petersen said.
She described how IWAV’s programs are necessary to help women who are trying to escape violence and abuse. Women can find initial support through IWAV’s 24-hour crisis line and from there talk to staff, who can connect them with resources and help come up with a safety plan so they can leave their situation. The Transition House can provide a refuge for women in crisis for up to 30 days, and is staffed 24 hours a day. Food, accommodation, transportation and childcare are all provided.
IWAV is not given sufficient provincial funding, Peterson explained, to run all of its programs for women. The Transitions Thrift Store helps to boost operational funds. Community support through fundraisers like $10,000 for Change and other donations are also crucial.
“As all of us know as islanders, housing can be a big barrier, especially for women leaving abusive partners,” Peterson said. “The housing crisis has a disproportionate impact on women who have few financial resources and are in immediate need of housing. As a result, IWAV has become the owner and developer of housing.”
The organization created second-stage housing for women in 2012 and took over operations of Croftonbrook affordable seniors’ housing in 2015. The organization is currently working on expanding housing at that site to meet other affordable housing needs.
The $10,000 for Change fundraiser is the brainchild of Chental Wilson and is supported by Wilco Construction, the company she runs with her sister Sharon and their husbands, brothers Trevor and Ian Wilson. Chental had initially offered to donate her services as a life coach to IWAV’s clients, but heard from the previous executive director that what they really needed first was safety, accommodation and food.
This year’s fundraiser offered several levels of sponsorship as well as individual tickets to the dinner by chef Haidee Hart. Wilson said the farm-to-table meal with B.C. wines is a winning combination for local contractors, many of whom are “foodies.” It’s also an excellent opportunity to support a good cause in their home community.
“I can’t turn anyone away who’s a woman in need, and that’s what this is,” Wilson said. “It’s just about making sure that door’s always open for the person who knocks at it.”
For more on this story, see the Sept. 18, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.