Trick or...Food?: Selkirk students give back to an under the radar charity

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
October 20th, 2010

Ahhh life in the Kootenays. Peaceful, happy, serene are among a whole host of adjectives one could use to describe a section of earth that seems straight out of paradise. Life can be so good and so fulfilling here at times that we can get caught up in a happy bubble and forget that life isn’t that great for all of us, all the time. Life comes with challenges, difficulties and thankfully there are hard working folks in our communities who recognize that and put in time and effort when and where they can to help those in need. One such bright light in our communities is the WINS Transition house, which has served our community since 1979.

This Halloween as we’re busily carving pumpkins, doling out candy, walking the kids around the neighbourhood and getting costumed up, a group of Selkirk College students will be out on the town after something decidedly sweeter than candy. They’ll be out collecting food for the WINS Transition House’s food bank; women giving back to an organization that has been giving back to women in the community for going on thirty years.
A program of FAIR (Family And Individual Resource Centre Society), WINS got its start in the late 70s thanks to a group of nurses and other concerned women in the community who recognized a real need for a women’s support centre. Located in The Gulch, WINS not only offers residential shelter and support for women and their children who are leaving abusive situations but also drop-in support services, outreach and advocacy services, donated clothing and household items when they can.
More recently the society has rented a small house which for lack of a better name ended up being named the “Little house.” The new addition offers a weekly drop-in place for women to come and have a coffee or tea, pick up some donations and spend some time with our staff just talking or having a coffee.
One of the primary functions of WINS, however, remains their transition house services which are filling a need that, in a WINS volunteer’s eyes, shows no sign of declining.
“I don’t think it’s getting any better. I really don’t,” commented the program’s organizer, who goes simply by Willi. “I think probably stats would show that it’s holding pretty steady. I think maybe there are different issues now, but not less. People are coming in with multiple issues more now where it’s abuse for sure, mental health issues, substance use and a variety of things. We have well over a hundred women in a year stay with us and that’s just our residential services. That’s not including the phone support, drop in services, food programs or anything like that; that’s just individual women that have stayed here.’
Karen Spicer, one of the five human resource students at Selkirk College who have initiated the food drive for WINS, first learned about and got involved with the society a number of years ago.
“They have a suicide prevention line at the house ,and I worked there for a while so I got to know the house well,” explained Spicer. “The five other students and I are in the Social Work section of the Human Resources program. For one of our projects we basically had to go out into the community and do some good.”
Drawing on her previous connection to WINS, a lifelong desire to help people in need, and the hope of helping out a charity that is not regularly in the limelight or perhaps overlooked in the community, Spicer acted.
“We wanted to support a cause that wasn’t front and centre but which was filling a need. Something that people didn’t know a lot about and that could perhaps use a helping hand. That’s why we really wanted to help out the WINS transition house.”
When Halloween rolls around on Sunday the 31st, Spicer and friends will be going door to door in Rossland from 5:00 – 9:00 PM collecting non-perishables and toiletries for the house’s food bank program.
The food gathered goes specifically to women in need in the Trail and Rossland area. As part of their services, WINS offers a yearlong residential program for woman following their one month transition house stay.
“Usually the women in the second stage program have enough money to pay their rent and don’t have enough left for food, so we decided we’d start our own food bank a few years ago,” noted Willi. “We really appreciate the help from these girls because we are really low on food right now. We don’t have any selection at all hardly.”
In addition to helping supply the second stage program, WINS also opens up its food bank to any past clients who may be in need.
It’s not just about providing the basics at WINS, however, as Willi and team truly try to create as comforting a home as possible while they help get their clients back on their feet. According to Willi, creating a comforting and inviting space can often be a critical component in helping women come in and leave whatever bad situation they were faced with.
“One thing that we’re particularly pleased with and maybe even a little proud of is that we have a pet policy in our house which allows women leaving abuse to bring their pets with them. It might be surprising how many women will not leave an abusive partner or relationship and leave a pet behind. Threats against pets or threats of harming them if a woman leaves is one of the ways a partner will use to keep her from leaving. Us welcoming their pets hopefully makes it that much easier for women to come in and get the assistance they need.”
What it all adds up to is a few folks putting in long hours to help support women in our community in their time of need, a group of volunteers working hard behind the scenes to help fill a gap in services in their community.
They don’t seek public attention but rather are focused on providing a helping hand and would be most appreciative this Halloween of any donations they receive to help them in their mission.

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