Holiday dinners, school concerts, presents, work parties, stocking stuffers… December is filled with moments for us to connect with our loved ones but can also be quite stressful for families in Calgary. With the recent downturn in the economy, many women face difficult problems and have hard decisions to make during a time which should be celebratory. Will I make rent this month? Will I have enough food for the week? Will I be able to afford winter jackets for my children? Priorities shift and holiday gifts are not at the top of the list. Even though women would like to make wonderful holiday memories for their children, this is seldom a reality.
December is quite a busy time at the Women’s Centre. We work with agencies around the city to provide food, find shelter, and give warm clothing to women and their families. In that month alone, we supported women 2,805 times with direct assistance services. In addition to our regular programs and services, we open the Toy Room to provide gifts to women and children.
Women are welcome to come in and choose a toy for their children and themselves with the help of volunteers. This program is open to all women, with or without children. There are no criteria or intake forms and the program is available on a walk in basis without an appointment. Last year, 52% of the women we provided services for have experienced or are currently living in poverty. Many low-income women lose the chance to choose what they wear, where they live, and even what they eat when they access certain services. By setting up display tables in the Toy Room, women get to choose gifts for themselves and their family.
Even with record cold temperatures throughout December, we still saw quite a few people; on our busiest day, we provided gifts for 515 women and children. We wouldn’t be able to provide these gifts without the support of our community! We had 253 volunteers and 24 toy drive organizers provide a positive experience for 3,569 women and children. Words cannot express how grateful we are to our community for their support throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, so we created this infographic instead! Wishing you all the best in 2017 – we look forward to making more connections and creating positive change for women in our community.