The poor and forgotten in our own Waterloo Region

I ran into this feeling once before. It’s like heartbreak mixed with insufficiency, a feeling that I’ll never be able to do enough to make right what I’ve seen and heard. The first time was during my relatively short working trip to Kolkata, India in June 2005. I helped out for a few days in an orphanage for disabled babies and children. All we could really do was hold the little ones and sing to them because most were unresponsive or in pain. I came home to my 400 square foot apartment and it felt too big. Everything I owned felt too opulent.

That’s how I’m feeling again tonight. But 7.5 years after my Kolkata trip, I’m now a mother and I feel even more broken-hearted for the poor and forgotten…especially since I only drove 30 km from home to find them.

It was an emotionally charged week, preparing mentally and physically to launch our Dress Them In Hope clothing and fundraising program in support of Marillac Place women’s shelter in Kitchener. A snowstorm hit the region on Friday afternoon, right in time for our kick-off clothing drive, deterring people from making a trip to downtown Kitchener. However, this gave me time to sit and talk with Marillac’s Business Manager and the Chair of their Board of Directors.

If you’re not familiar with Marillac Place, it’s a small homeless shelter that’s been around for about 25 years. It’s a refuge for homeless young women between the ages of 16 and 25 who are either pregnant or have babies/toddlers. This means that some of these women are giving birth to babies while they are living at Marillac Place, and children are spending the first few months of their lives in the shelter.

While Marillac Place meets the basic needs of the women and babies in their residence, it is still a temporary living arrangement for these homeless families and it is certainly not a replacement for a stable home environment. The small group of workers and volunteers at Marillac Place do what they can with minimal funding compared to larger organizations with more established PR and marketing programs. With minimal funding, Marillac isn’t able to run sleek and sexy fundraising campaigns or hold gala events to draw the sponsors they need to grow as an organization.

Today was the second day of our clothing drive and we were ecstatic that we had more people drop off clothing donations today here in Wellesley. It looks like more people are starting to hear about the program and are helping us spread the word about Marillac Place. But what we’re doing through Dress Them In Hope is a drop in the ocean. There is still so much untapped potential and growth for Marillac, but it does require people to take an interest – to take time to learn about the needs of the homeless young mothers who are just trying to get their lives on track for their babies.

Building profile for Marillac is critical at this point in their development. What they need, in addition to physical and monetary donations, are ambassadors to bring attention to the residents of Marillac Place and their needs. Taking action is as simple as getting online and liking or sharing information on Facebook and Twitter, but the possibilities are endless if you are creative and have a heart for supporting local not-for-profit organizations.

I would like to personally thank the following people and organizations for their support of Dress Them In Hope for Marillac Place, either in helping us share information, volunteering, or bringing clothing donations (alpha order):

  • Adrienne Farrell
  • Alan Schwarz
  • Alyssa Livingstone
  • Amy Marcoux
  • Angela Dell Coffin
  • Becky Hill
  • Beth James
  • Beth Young
  • Catt Groen
  • Chris Read
  • Cindy Vercouteren
  • Darlene Gajewski
  • Doug Farrell
  • Inspiring Minds Early Learning Centre
  • Jarrett Hamilton
  • Jolene MacDonald
  • Julie Hause
  • Kathryn McEwin
  • Kevin and Diane Wakem
  • Kim Kung
  • Kirsty Madden
  • KW Connections
  • Larry Kryski
  • Linda Givetash
  • Marta Bailey
  • Megan Moser
  • Megan Scholten
  • Pam Tolton
  • Rebecca Currie
  • Rita James
  • Ronnie Baram
  • Scott Cressman
  • Steven Grossman
  • Susan Schwarz
  • Terri Reis
  • The New Hamburg Independent
  • The Waterloo Record
  • Tricia Woodcock
  • Two Blonde Chicks Design & Marketing
  • Wellesley Is…

If you live in the Waterloo Region and would like to know more about getting involved with Marillac Place, please send me an email. Also, if you simply like or share this post that will be very helpful. Thank you.

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