Category Archives: YW Updates

Things we learned in 2020

Things we learned in 2020… possibly the worst year ever

We’re nearing the end of the year, and just as many others do, we are reflecting back of the year to see how far we have come, what we have learned and how we have grown. This year… well, this reflection feels a little bit different. 2020 was filled with so much fear, uncertainty, and isolation. But, a lot of good came out of the adversity. That is what we’re talking about today on the YW Blog.

Here are some of the things that we learned during the worst year ever:

Niagara is the best place to live

Okay, so, maybe this isn’t something we learned so much as it is something that was reaffirmed. But it is worth mentioning – Niagara is the best place to live. Our community surrounded us with hope during some of the darkest times we have seen in over a decade. Despite our uncertainty, we knew we would pull through because of all of our supporters letting us know they wouldn’t let us fall down.

Not only that, but each and every member of this community is doing their part to make Niagara safer and healthier during the pandemic. YOU are wearing a mask, washing your hands, keep a safe physical distance. YOU are supporting small businesses and non-profits during challenging times. YOU are making sure no one is truly alone. Niagara is the best place to live… because of YOU.

A sense of community is important (and CAN be achieved virtually)

This one is a specific nod to the first-ever virtual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women 2020 held in October. Months into the pandemic, we were all feeling the notorious “Zoom Fatigue” like never before, but we knew our community needed a (virtual) space to rally together. NLSW 2020 was another area where we were full of uncertainty. Would people show up? Would people be too burnt out? Could a virtual summit create the same sense of community as our in-person event?

Not only did you show up, not only did you engage, not only did you connect… but we had one of the best Leadership Summits yet! Our hearts were filled with gratitude as we watched attendees actively participate in over 15 workshops, seminars, and panel discussions hosted by 20+ speakers. Together, we became empowered in our leadership and our ability to lift others up into leadership roles. Together, we reignited the sense of community we had been missing for 6 longs months. Together, we pledge to be compassionate, dedicated, innovative leaders as we navigate through these unprecedented times.

Niagara is a community of allies – and they had our back

We weren’t sure what to expect when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada and Niagara, but we could tell we were in for some hard times. Through every curve ball thrown at us, we always had an ally who could support us and see us through the instability. When we needed fresh produce to provide healthy meals, community partners like The Soup Kitchen stepped in. When we needed PPE to keep shelter guests and staff safe, foundations and granters like United Way and the Niagara Community Foundation made their opportunities known. When we needed to shelter high-risk guests and individuals who may have been exposed to COVID, the Niagara Region created a safe space.

For these long ten months, it has been a team effort to navigate the strangest times. There are so many more people, community groups, and organizations – more than we can count – that have advocated and supported Niagara’s most vulnerable. And we are beyond grateful for you.

While 2020 was nothing like we imagined (or ever could have anticipated), getting this far is nothing short of a miracle. We’re grateful to take a moment during the blur of the holidays to reflect not on the challenges and trials of 2020, but of the good we have seen in the community in spite of it. While we miss our community like crazy during the lockdown, we know that we will come out of these times stronger and better than ever. We cannot wait to see you in 2021!

WNAH

Coldest Night of the Year in support of WNAH

Jessica never thought it could happen to her. She never imagined herself homeless… let alone homeless with two dependent children. But when Jessica fell on hard times, she found herself and her children, just 8 and 9 years old, in an emergency shelter. With only a year’s time to pick the pieces of her life back together in this living arrangement, she knew her family needed something more stable in order to set a plan for the future.

Looking for a fresh start and safe place to raise her children, Jessica packed up her car and headed to West Niagara. She researched about the support given to those in need through the YW’s West Niagara Affordable Housing program and was soon connected with her transitional housing worker, Keshia. Within a week of connecting with WNAH, Jessica and her two children were housed in Grimsby in May 2019. With a place to call home, Jessica worked with Keshia to set goals including establishing a budget, achieving her high school diploma and getting her children involved in the community. Not everyone gets a shot at a fresh start after they fall down, and Jessica didn’t want to waste it. She decided to take the opportunity to achieve her long-time dream of becoming a nurse.

After just one year in the program, Jessica has worked hard to achieve and surpass her goals. She returned to school and received her high school diploma – in fact, she just picked it up last week! She has already been accepted into multiple post-secondary programs and is hoping for an opportunity to begin her nursing studies in September 2021. She has already secured employment in the homecare field as a client companion – a job she enjoys.

WNAH has not only helped Jessica get back on her feet, but it has also given her children the chance to experience a fulfilling childhood. Both of her dependent children have become part of the Grimsby community. They’d discovered a love for their gymnastics lessons, swimming at the YMCA and have just started their mentorships with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Jessica is even looking ahead to the summer and enrolled her youngest in this upcoming baseball season!

“I feel more a part of Grimsby. This is our town,”

– Jessica

Jessica is also proud to now be leading by example for her two older children that live independently – showing them that anything is possible even after you fall down.

Today, we’re fortunate enough to share Jessica’s story and we thank her for her courage to tell it. When we asked her what inspired her to tell us her story, Jessica said she wanted to spread awareness about the resources that are available to those in need including the YW’s WNAH program. Without the support of YW and community services, she wouldn’t know where she would be today.  

Thank you to everyone who came out to support people like Jessica and her children in our West Niagara Affordable Housing program by participating and donating to the YW’s Coldest Night of the Year West Niagara walk.

Daisy

Daisy’s journey began when she entered the Court Street Transitional Housing Program, after what she describes as a long walk of feeling alone and faced with many hardships. She felt completely supported from the day she moved into the YW’s supported housing. “I finally was where I needed to be,” explains Daisy. Having her Transitional Housing Worker just down the stairs from her to access when she needed support, was a relief and gave her a feeling she had not felt in a long time -that of safety.

Skills Development

While Daisy stayed with us at our Court Street building, she loved participating in our Skills Development workshops. At a time of her life when she thought of herself as someone who had lost all of her skills, it meant the world to be in a group that was all about celebrating your own strengths and beauty and all that you have overcome.

Moving on to Off-Site

Daisy successfully completed the Court Street Transitional Housing program, and then transitioned into the Off-Site Transitional Housing Program. During her time in the Off-Site program, she felt empowered by her Support Worker, who never judged, and felt she was met where she was at. Her Support Worker was able to focus on her needs and help her reach her goals. This month, Daisy completed the transitional housing program and has moved on to a place that she can now call her home.

Aftercare

Our support does not end there. One of the things that often make all of the difference for the women and families we serve, is that we are still there for them even when they have left our programs. For Daisy, knowing that the support is still there for her if and when she needs it, gives her the strength and the trust she needs to continue on on her path.

Daisy’s message for you?

“I’m just one of many individuals in the Niagara Region who are in need of this type of Transitional Housing opportunity and supports. Please keep in mind when you pass someone in public that you just never know their story. The YWCA is an organization that goes above and beyond for the individuals they support, and I would like to encourage the community to take the time to get involved or to learn more about what the YWCA has to offer the community.” For Daisy, the YW is the place where she felt empowered and supported every step of the way.

What is your boardroom used for?

Is it a multipurpose room set as a meeting space during the day and a bedroom to multiple people at night? A child’s safe place with their mom? Is it someone’s temporary home?

Here at the YWCA Niagara Region, ours is regularly just that.

I will never forget that one Friday morning I came into work at the YWCA Niagara Region. It was a little earlier than usual. I was on my way to the Fund Development office, walking past the boardroom when I noticed the lights were on. That was rare for that early in the morning. So, naturally, I glanced into the room.

What did I see?

Not one, not two, but three beds. In our boardroom! Unbelievable. The purpose of a boardroom is for meetings, not for someone to sleep at night. The fact that there were three was even more alarming. That meant three people were crammed into a room with all of the tables and chairs for a meeting along with the three beds. Three people!

The YWCA Niagara Region St. Catharines Emergency shelter already holds at least twenty women and their children every night. To think that more people needing a safe place to lay their heads are being put on pull out couches and cots was extremely upsetting. I then found out that there were two more cots in our Kate Leonard Room (another boardroom across the hall). Five people in total were sleeping in what was intended to be a meeting room. This was in decent weather. Can you imagine what the demand is like during terrible weather? I teared up a bit as my heart went out to these women and children.

How would I feel if I were tossed into a boardroom with two other people or with my little kids? How would you feel? Vulnerable, to say the least. Grateful, of course and happy to be safe; but sad, scared, and uncomfortable. I can’t grasp exactly how they must feel. Unless you’re in the position, how could you? The thought of small children and their mothers curling up in a room that I personally use to plan events and gain community support is upsetting. One that’s used to make decisions to help clients, not house them. It’s not a bedroom, there is no closet to put away clients’ belongings.

After taking a minute to let it sink in that this was a daily reality, I stepped outside with my hand to my lips in utter shock. The advocate on duty apologized that she hadn’t had time to clean up the beds. Well no kidding, there were at least 25 women and their children who most likely needed her attention in the morning. So, no, she didn’t have time to clean up all of the meeting rooms. This is what we have to do to ensure that Niagara women and children have somewhere they can safely sleep, have a warm meal, and the comfort of a shower, even if they have to be placed in a boardroom with others. At least they have a safe place and a semi-comfortable cot.

            “I was shocked and heartbroken, tearing up. I mean, who wants to sleep in a boardroom? My heart went out to these women and children living in this type of situation!”

The unfortunate thing is the YW as well as all of the other shelters across the region and country have been running overcapacity for quite some time. They’ve been struggling to find the room for women and children in need. In 2017, the YW operated at 110% capacity. Hotels are thrilled when they reach 60% capacity. That’s how high the demand for just a bed is. Not to mention the fact that the demand for meals went up 42% in the last year at the YW, which had us serve a total of 94,691 meals.

I can’t explain my heartbreak. We are trying our best, but the demand is still rising and we are running out of room.

This is why I’m participating in No Fixed Address and supporting the YWCA Niagara Region, and this is why I am passionate about my job.

Because there are women and children, as well as men (in the men’s shelter) who live in impossible situations and deserve better. Who would I be if I didn’t try to make a difference? I certainly would hope for help if I was in the situation, and the hard reality is it can happen to any one of us.

So, what is your boardroom used for?

Help me make a difference and participate in the YW’s No Fixed Address event on June 8th-9th, where we can help end homelessness.

Start Somewhere

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Sana Shah (Brock University)

On Saturday October 28th, YWCA Niagara Region hosted the fourth Annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. Since October is Women’s History Month, it seemed to be fitting to end the month on such a positive note. It was great to see a few men present in the crowd, who supported women’s rights and ability to lead in a rather male dominated community. I hope to see more men in the future at the summit because gender inequality does not only concern women; it is a larger problem concerning the Canadian community as a whole.

Ashley Callingbull was the keynote speaker for the summit, who became the first First Nations and Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. She is devoted to supporting the community. She shared with the audience her struggling childhood, and how she as a First Nations woman has to work extra hard to make achievements. Shining light on this issue, she further explained how she experienced racism from a young age. She brought attention to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. However, most importantly she reminded the crowd that you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be, and that the only person holding you down is yourself. So let us hold on to that and try to change the gender divide one-step at a time.

Once Ashley wrapped up her address, we had an opportunity to attend a workshop from a choice four, which included; Leadership in parenting, Women in politics, Breaking barriers in mental health, and Business and entrepreneurship.

I attended the Women in politics workshop, which focused greatly on the Niagara region. It was led by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Mishka Balsom, Debbie Zimmerman, Joyce Morroco, Carol Stewart-Kirkby, and Shirley Cordiner. We discussed as a group about Niagara’s democratic deficit in women’s representation in local politics. There is a link between low female voter turnout and low female representation in politics. After the workshop we took a short break and had a choice of attending another workshop from the following options; Aboriginal community justice, Conquering barriers to success, Decolonizing language, Disability leadership, Fair trade, Race and racism, Self-care for caregivers, Success in a male dominated industry, Women in STEM, and Volunteerism

I chose to attend the workshop on Aboriginal Justice, let by Celeste Smith. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal youth as incarcerated individuals, regardless of Aboriginal people making up only 4% of the Canadian population. Smith is the director of Three Fires Community Justice Program, which is a diversion program that provides healing for Aboriginal youth and adults charged with criminal offence. It focuses on the community taking responsibility of the individuals that is at fault. The program begins with the belief that everyone is worth something.

Based on the two workshops I attended, I only wish I could have attended all of them, as they were quite insightful. The summit came to a closing with a discussion panel about women in politics; with a focus on voting, and closing remarks from Elisabeth Zimmerman (Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region).

This summit was a Call to Action, a call to show up, take action and support one another. In order to make a large impact we need to start small, we need to start somewhere. Even the women’s rights movement started with only a handful of likeminded people who eventually got women the status of being ‘people’ in Canada and the right to vote. It may not be as bad as back then, but we are still far from being on the same playing field and having the same representation. As I end this piece, I encourage, just like most of the presenters at the summit, to save the date OCTOBER 22ND 2018 to go out and vote in the municipal elections. Have your voice heard. We can do anything we want; we just need to start somewhere.

International Women’s Day Events

This year’s International Women’s Day is Wednesday, March 8th, 2017. This day started in 1908 when 15, 000 women gathered to march in New York City with demands to have shorter working hours, increased wages, and the right to vote. It has since been “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” (International Women’s Day website). The history around this day is incredible. You can find out more here.

But what is it all about this year? The theme for 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. What does that mean? You get to decided that for yourself. We may each have a different view of what needs to be changed and how to go about it. Even the website has a variety of ways we can create change for women. Through the website you can pledge how you will strive to be bold for change this year. The main points are:

  • I’ll change bias and inequality
  • I’ll campaign against violence
  • I’ll forge women’s advancement
  • I’ll celebrate women’s achievement
  • I’ll champion women’s education

Luckily, there are a few events that are happening in the Niagara region to celebrate women on this amazing day.

The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council is putting on an International Women’s Day event on March 3rd which will have Teresa Cascioli as the keynote speaker. Tickets are $57.50 – $75 depending on if you are a member. The WIN council will also be presenting Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award.

 

On March 3rd as well, the Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce is hosting it’s 12th Annual International Women’s Day Networking Luncheon at Cherry Hill Club. Tickets are $45 plus tax for members and $50 plus tax for non-members. The guest speaker will be Shannon Passero celebrating strength, perseverance, and power.

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region is happening on Sunday, March 5th from 4-7 pm at St. John’s Activity Centre. This event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music. Tickets are $20 dollars with proceeds going toward the YWCA Niagara Region.

On the actual day, March 8th, Be Bold For Change event is happening at Gwen’s Teas. This will be a more affordable event happening in the evening to ensure that it is accessible to a variety of people. A $5 donation to the YWCA Niagara Region is encouraged. The focus will be on how attendees will #BeBoldForChange to close the gender gap.

If there are any events you are aware of that are not posted, please tell us! You can also let us know how you feel they went if you were able to attend one.

Tell us how you will #BeBoldForChange by tagging us on Twitter @YWCA_Niagara

Fighting Human Trafficking

Janet and Karen were 17 years old and lived in Thunder Bay when an older girl befriended them. She was fun, beautiful, self-confident and the two high school girls felt special for getting to spend time with her. Until that one day when everything changed. They had plans to meet in the park as they had so many times before. This time was different. He was there. They had never seen him before but there was something about him, something in his eyes, that gave Janet a shiver. What happened next, happened fast. The thought of it is almost too hard to bear and yet, it is all too common and we need to, have to, talk about it.
Janet and Karen were shoved into a trunk and brought to Niagara. They found themselves in a hotel room and were soon caught in a web of forced sex work, drug addiction, emotional and physical abuse and no way out.

Service providers in Niagara see victims of human trafficking come to their doors on a regular basis but often lack the knowledge and tools to address their specific needs sufficiently. “That is what brought on the idea to get together to develop an Anti-Human Trafficking Protocol,” explains Krystal Snider, the YW’s Skills Development Coordinator. In partnership with the Niagara Sexual Assault Centre and Victim Services, she brought forward a proposal to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “The main goal is to enable community members to easily and clearly identify victims of human trafficking and to then be confident in their ability to offer supports and information about intervention to them.”
We are fortunate that the Canadian Women’s Foundation acknowledges the importance of Snider’s idea and proudly announce that the YW is the recipient of a $25,000 violence prevention grant.

“We see it regularly in our own shelters at the YW: women are sent in to recruit other women and girls to come work for them.”

“This project is so necessary because Niagara is home to two border cities – Niagara Falls and Fort Erie,” says Krystal. “There has been an identified need for quite some time. We see it regularly in our own shelters at the YW: women are sent in to recruit other women and girls to come work for them.” For Janet and Karen, the YW was their way out. They managed to escape the hotel room that had become their prison and are back safely with their families in Winnipeg today.

A shared Anti-Human Trafficking protocol in the region will help more women like Janet and Karen to get the support they need to escape human trafficking.

No Fixed Address – A Humbling Ride

Well, what do I say about my first time being involved with No Fixed Address? When I came on as a summer student, I had no idea what I was really in for. I had done research into the YWCA and their signaturKids playing in lote event of course, before beginning, but nothing can really prepare you for actually living it.

Coming into work every day at one of the shelters the YW runs grounded me from day one.

Every morning I walk past the ladies standing outside, talking together and starting their day. I say good morning and smile, stop and chat if they show an interest, before heading up to the loft to start the day. Through the social media management, the meetings, the donor relations, the planning and running around, I always have these ladies in the back of my mind.Niagara Roller Girls Chalk drawing
The day of NFA brought them screaming to the front.

When the sky opened up and soaked me through, I thought of them, and wondered how many had been caught in weather with nowhere to go. Those moments when I felt a little lost because I was aimless, I thought of them and wondered what it must feel like to not belong anywhere. Finally, when it came time to sleep in my car I thought of them.
With the windows open, and loud people around me; with no sense of privacy or personal space, with cramps in my back I thought of them. Then I cried. I sat there in the front seat trying to get comfortable and thought of these women I talk to every day, and the journey that brought them to us.

Please don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun throughout the day. I made new friends, laughed, and danced (badly). I enjoyed the games and the feeling of working together to make a difference. I will absolutely be back next year to help in any way I can.

Ultimately though, this amazing experience humbled me, and I am just so grateful for it.
on stage amount raised

NFA 2015: Past Participant Interview

Happy Thursday everyone! We are a little over a month away from next month’s NO FIXED ADDRESS 24 hour live-in-your-car-a-thon! Our big event takes place on August 14th and 15th in the Pen Centre parking lot! Our goal is to raise awareness about poverty and homelessness by having others experience what it’s like to live out of your car. Want to make a difference? Visit the NFA website to sign up, make a donation, or volunteer (www.nfaniagara.ca)!

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Maybe you aren’t sure if you want to sign up just yet. Maybe you need to hear what it was like from someone who has participated in the event? Well, we reached out to past participant Christina Papetti to answer some questions about her and her family’s experience at No Fixed Address. Christina and her family have participated every year since 2012.

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Y: What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address in 2012?

C: The first time I heard about no fixed address was from my sister. She was working at the YWCA and told me about it and asked if we would do it. I’m so glad we did.

Y: Why did you choose to register as a team with your family, rather than as an individual?

C: We register every year as a family because we use this to help the homeless and it’s also bonding time for us! We do everything as a team: our signs, getting the donations, and we make it kind of like a family day. We look forward to it every year.

Y: What was your first family experience like at No Fixed Address?  What was it like trying to fit yourself and your children into one car for the night?

C: The first year was a little difficult, we weren’t very organized. We now know that it gets chilly out in the early early morning, so we bring warmer blankets and socks. I now know how much my daughter moves when she’s sleeping and how loud my son can really snore!

Y: What are some of the things that you and your children have learned from No Fixed Address?

C: I love that every year when we get home after spending the 24 hours in the car, my kids ALWAYS  say how sorry they feel for the people that have no choice but to sleep in their cars. They say how lucky they are that they only have to do it once a year and then they get to come home to THEIR beds.

Y: How has No Fixed Address changed yours and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

C: My kids see that it doesn’t take much to make a difference, and they see that some people really don’t have a choice. I think they have learned a lot. I am a very proud mother of all 3 of my kids; all 3 have done things that put me in awe. One example is how they gave up THEIR lunch money to buy a coffee and muffin for a older man who looked like he could use it. When I asked my son what he had eaten for lunch that day, his reply was “I’m good, I know I can eat when I get home.” It makes me so proud to know that my kids know that they can change the world for a person in need.

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A very special thank you to Christina and her family for their ongoing support — and to everyone involved in No Fixed Address! Make sure you sign up for NFA TODAY!

Finer Diner Dinner 2015

On the evening of Friday, June 19th, guests were welcomed to the Lancer Family Restaurant in St. Catharines to enjoy a gourmet dining experience with a fun 1950s theme, all in support of the YWCA Niagara Region! There were classic records, poodle skirts, beautiful scarves and even an Elvis look alike in attendance!

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The idea behind this event was to have a gourmet dinner in a classic diner setting, hence the ‘Finer Diner’ title. Guests were served a delicious 5 course meal, which included tomato basil soup, beer pretzels, salad, delicious roast beef and old fashioned chocolate milkshakes. Each course was paired with a local wine or beer (thank you to Calamus Estate Winery, Brimstone Brewing, Fielding Estate Winery, and Konzelmann Estate Winery for your donations!). A very heartfelt thank you to Maria Donato for preparing and cooking the delicious food for the night. The cherry on top was a scrumptious 1950s themed cake made by Karen Teal. Our special guest, Elvis (Djino LeFrancois) cut the cake for our guests, provided us with amazing entertainment, and sang ‘The King’s’ greatest hits.

Cake

But that’s not all! A live auction was held and there were so many amazing prizes — everything from Niagara Falls Getaways to a Father’s Day Fishing & Beer basket! The auction was a huge success as guests kept bidding and bidding, all for a great local cause! Special thanks to Nicki Inch’s son, Nate, for hosting the live auction. Thank you to all of the guests for coming out, bidding on prizes and supporting the YWCA!

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And we can’t forget — a BIG BIG thank you goes out to the amazing planning committee who organized this event: Danielle Murray, Mary Comfort, Margaret Corbett, Sue Forgeron and Rachael Forgeron. These ladies used their creativity and connections to coordinate this one of a kind dinner and raised money for the essential programs and services at the YWCA! Another huge thank you to all the volunteers who came out and helped with the event for the night.  As always, without all the amazing volunteers taking the time to plan and attend events like this,  the YWCA would not be able to provide women with everything they need to reach their full potential.

Getting to Know You

Valentines Day has passed, but relationships are still on our minds! This month, our Bloggers chose three of five questions about all forms of relationships.

Evelyn

YWCA pictureTried, Tested and True – your best piece of relationship advice you want to share with the world is..?

Communication and respect. When we’re angry, some of us can say some really mean things and the filter that we usually have is ignored. There is a reason why that filter is there. I think we need to try and see through all of the “red” and decide on what is best for the long-term of the relationship rather than try and hurt the other person as best as we can in that split second. Communication is key on defining what needs to be compromised on or what makes us uncomfortable, etc. but without respect, there will be more harm done than good.

What do you think makes any relationship stand the test of time?

I think relationships will last if both sides reach out to each other. Nobody wants to feel like they’re the only one trying in a relationship!

What I love about my best friend is ..?

I’m close to my sister because even though we are not in the same city, we still communicate on a daily basis and share our fears and achievements.

 

Donna

Tried, Tested and True – your best piece of relationship advice you want to share with the world is…

Don’t keep score.

 You knew you were in love when..?

It wasn’t the flowers, dinners out at fancy restaurants or even the weekend away during our first few months of dating.  These were all lovely and very much appreciated.  It was the moment he stopped, looked concerned and then easily fixed my front door screen from slamming shut, so the girls and I wouldn’t get hurt by it. 

That small gesture, melted my heart.

What I love about my best friend is ..?

I know, without a doubt that she will tell me exactly what I need to know – not always what I want to hear.  She is my sounding board, my champion and partner in crime!

 

Cate

Tried, Tested and True – your best piece of relationship advice you want to share with the world is..?

Appreciate the little things; and this applies to any relationship, be it romantic, familial, platonic or professional. Oftentimes as we grow within our relationships, we can lose sight of why we enjoy spending time with that person or what drew us to them in the first place when we initially met. Sometimes our focus can be redirected towards how we can benefit from our relationships in a material way; unfortunately disregarding the other person is as an innate and caring individual. We tend to expect more out of people who we’ve known for a long time and as time goes on, this can build up to astronomical levels where your efforts, or theirs, don’t seem to meet the expectations anymore. Instead, I focus on the little things, such as bringing extra food to share in the office, giving them a ride to school, or setting aside an entire day or weekend to do things that we both love. It’s the little things, I find, that I remember the most.

You knew you were in love when..?cate

I caught him looking at me for an oddly long time, once during our first summer together. We were driving around in my hometown and as we stopped at a red light, I could feel him looking at me, so I looked at him in return. He wouldn’t break his gaze with me and at first I thought that there was something on my face, or there was something wrong with my hair or clothes. So I asked him, “what is it?”, to which he replied, “Nothing. Can’t I just admire you?” Three years later and he still does this periodically, each time reminding me how much I love him.

Fill in the blanks: I’m close to __________ because _________?

I’m close to my little sister because she is the most compassionate and patient person I know.

 

Marilyn

marTried, Tested and True – your best piece of relationship advice you want to share with the world is..?

My best piece of relationship advice is to remember to continue growing with your partner!  We all change and evolve over time and if we don’t embrace these changes, we risk growing apart. Keep each other in the loop about new and interesting changes or opportunities that are happening in your life. Continue to grow as an individual and learn new things to share with your partner. Take an active interest in your partners hobbies.  Date nights and romance are very important! Make time to pamper each other. Treat each other to thoughtful gestures or meaningful gifts to create beautiful lasting memories. And lastly, be kind to each other!

What I love about my best friend is ..?

What I love about my best friend is his loyalty, dedication, and sense of humour. I love having him for my trusted companion. 

What do you think makes any relationship stand the test of time?

I think commitment and hard work is what makes any relationship stand the test of time. You have to be willing to ride out the tough times without turning on each other. 

 

Joan

What I love about my best friend is ..?

What I love about my best friend is that she is funny and she is always there for me. She gives me realistic advice and always has my best interests in mind. 

Worse relationship advice you ever got, and from who?cosmo

I think Cosmo gives unrealistic and terrible flirting/relationship advice. To further prove my point, here is a BuzzFeed video that shows girls trying these tips on guys.

What do you think makes any relationship stand the test of time?

I think communication is important for a relationship to be able to stand the test of time. By communicating with your partner, you guys get a clear understanding of how one feels towards an issue and how to best resolve an issue. 

Michelle

What I love about my best friend is ..?

I love that my best friend is as completely crazy and insane as me and we are able to cry laughing while doing completely mundane things like grocery shopping. It doesn’t matter how often we see each other because I know regardless of my circumstances she is just a phone call away. She’s the person I can call at 4am from across the country and she would find a way to pick me up. 

What do you think makes any relationship stand the test of time?

I think common interests and goals are very important when considering if a relationship will work out long term and I think too often we try to sell the mantra that “opposites attract”. I think that while opposing perspectives might initially bring you two together, I think being able to find common ground will likely KEEP you two together. 

carrieBest relationship advice you ever got, and from who?

The best relationship advice I have received would definitely be from none other than Carrie Bradshaw (#sexandthecity), who showed us that life can begin again after a disastrous relationship and that best friends are our true soulmates in life. 

 

Sami-Jo

Tried, Tested and True – your best piece of relationship advice you want to share with the world is..?

SAMIErase the illusion of perfection. Everyone likes to brag about their significant other. What you say to others is your business, but the expectations you hold to each other should include room for imperfections. Whether that be in ways you handle anger, sadness, or happiness, how you fail to pick up wet towels from the bathroom floor, or how you suck at cooking and wouldn’t be alive if the other didn’t take time to feed you every day, flaws exist and should be embraced. Sounds easy, but we tend to put the toughest expectations on the ones we hold the closest. They should be the ones we shower with forgiveness for not being perfect human beings, yet still the one you’ve chosen to build a life with. Remember, you’re not perfect either, and at some point, you’ll need understanding more than an anecdote to brag about.

You knew you were in love when..?

My sixteen year old heart thought I was in love the moment my husband – then boyfriend – grabbed my hand in the lobby of the movie theater back in 2000. And maybe I was. I do remember him leaving on the train for basic training in the army less than two years later and thinking if I never saw him again that I would be compromised as a human being, that I wasn’t sure I was equipped to deal with that loss. I wanted him in my life day in and day out and the separation was near unbearable. At some point between not shying away from holding his hand to crying in the train station, love had formed without me pinpointing the moment, but I knew it existed.

What do you think makes any relationship stand the test of time?

I should have a great answer for this because I’ve been in a relationship for 14+ years, but I’m not so sure I do. Over the years my husband and I have had issues like any couple. Maybe the difference between us and others who have since fallen apart was our refusal to give up on each other. Understanding can be the most difficult, especially when you disagree so wholeheartedly with whatever issue you’re facing. Reminding ourselves that the other thinks the way they do and acts the way they do for a reason, and that there’s much more to the person you love then this current debate or perceived ‘irreconcilable difference’, can get back to the core of the relationship and find a way to move on. As long as you’re not compromising your base values, a solution is always possible for those who would rather fight to be together than take the easy way out by ending it all.

Happy New… Changes!

2015; New Year, New Changes!

Our Bloggers have been hard at work behind the scenes to come up with new stories, new content and now, new features! This month we’re excited to launch three new regular posts to our Y’s Women Blog:
Monday’s Creative Corner where you can come to find recipe, DIY, or any quote or poem that inspires us to be CREATIVE!
Friday’s Friday Finds posts will be something one of our Bloggers would like to recommend; a new restaurant, a book, movie, or product we love!
Lastly, we want you to know that we’re real women, with real opinions and stories, so we’re introducing our monthly Getting to Know You feature. We’ll pick 3 of 5 questions to answer that relate to our theme of the month. We would love if you weighed in and answered them too.
To kick us off, here are January’s Getting to Know You questions about Happiness!

Donna

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

HOPEFUL (printed in all capital letters, and in the brightest of colours found in the crayon box)

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.MyGarden2

In Order: My Family, My Closest Friends, the Sunshine, My Garden, and A Sense of Humour.  Everything else, I consider a bonus!

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

A heart filled with gratitude.

 

 

Ellen

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Summer, because the days are long and warm and everything from getting dressed to travelling (with the exception of gardening) requires less effort and forethought. Summer passes quickly, so I appreciate the long sunny days (even when they are humid), fresh produce, sounds of crickets and cicadas, and everything else the season brings. There’s also spectacular thunderstorms to watch over the lake, and fireflies in the backyard (or sometimes, magically, millions of them in the Niagara Glen). 

What do you do to change a bad day around?

It depends on what constitutes a bad day. Sometimes its a negative or fear-filled interpretation of reality and that’s something that I can work on (as opposed to getting devastating news, which oddly I don’t think about when I think “boy, this is a bad day”). So, If I don’t think about it as “I am having a bad day” and reframe it as a rough morning, or something like that, I can work on making it better. Often, I go for a walk or a hike. I may start out feeling anxious or frustrated about something but an hour of walking in my neighbourhood can make me wonder why I was all worked up (or sad or disconsolate) in the first place.

Finish this thought, Happiness is..?

So many things. But not always easy.

Carli

Carli

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

Optimistic. While I freely admit that I am one who can easily become stressed out and bogged down, I’m also one who tends to look on the brighter side of things and can usually find some optimism for most situations.

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

My family and close friends

My memories

Personal photographs/mementos

Moments of peace and quiet

Hope

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Sitting down at the end of a long day in a clean and organized home relaxing with my husband and son—glass of wine in hand! 🙂

 

 

Franziska

n608437755_584356_6494List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

  1. Family
  2. Beer
  3. Music
  4. Faith
  5. Sunshine

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Vent. Cry. Laugh. Eat chocolate cake. Or chocolate cookies. Or both. Turn up TNT by ACDC and turn into dynamite in the living room. Do my dance routine to the “YMCA” tune in the living room (although in my version, it’s YWCA of course).

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

…feeling loved.

…a hot, moist double chocolate chip cookie.

…a cold beer on a hot day.

Evelyn

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

YWCA picture

SUMMER! It’s almost always sunny and I can go outside whenever I want without worrying about wearing a jacket, scarf, gloves, etc. I also don’t have to worry about temperatures dropping later in the day and getting sick from it if I don’t have warm enough clothes on. I also love that everything is in full bloom; trees and flowers line the gardens in the neighbourhood, birds are singing, and people just seem happier in general and that makes me happy! Towards the end of the season, if it gets cold enough, the leaves start to change colours which is beautiful too.  

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

On a bad day, I look up really great movies to watch! It doesn’t even matter what genre the movies are, as long as they’re really good. It gives me a chance to live somebody else’s problems and struggles as well as their happier moments; movies really put my own issues into perspective! 

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

My reason to live!

Rachael

rachaelList five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

My family, a hot cup of tea, Jane Austen’s novels, naps and peanut butter.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Winding down at the end of the day by beading (making jewllery) on the couch!

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

1. Call my Mother. 2. Chase a little black ball around a squash court (and sometimes hit it a little extra hard!)

 

 Marilyn

marIf you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

The one word that I would use to best describe myself is SURVIVOR! In spite of everything I have lived through, I still get up every day and keep moving forward. I continue to better myself through education and commitment.

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

The 5 things I couldn’t possibly live happily without are: my family and husband, reading and collecting books, regular visits to the beach, my writing and music.

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Summer is my favourite season because I feel and look better. The sunshine tints my skin and reflects my Italian heritage. I don’t look pale and pasty, like a plant that wilts and loses colour when they don’t get enough sunshine. My arthritis and fibromyalgia isn’t as painful in the warm weather so I am more active. I have more energy in the summer and participate in more activities when the weather is warm. I am happier all around in the summer months. I truly believe I would thrive in a warmer climate like California, but I still make the most of my life year round regardless of the weather.

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Sometimes I have a difficult time turning a bad day around, but I do have some coping mechanisms I use. I listen to music and sing my heart out to relieve stress. I love dancing to my favourite songs. I love to take a long ride in my sporty little car, singing along to one of my favourite CD. I meditate to alleviate any anxiety I am suffering from. Sometimes cooking a really tasty meal for my husband gives me great satisfaction. I use writing as means to express myself and release pent up emotions. I also like to work on creative projects like starting a new quilt for myself that reflects my true personality.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is being content with the life you have created!

 

Joan

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

Quirky

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

Starbucks, phone, Macbook, scented candles, Twitter.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is coffee. 

 

Sami Jo

SAMIWhich of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

My favourite season is Fall, always has been. The moment summer tapers off, leaves start to turn, and I can pull on my leather jacket, is the moment I can take a clean breath of fresh air and cozy in. Give me a book or my computer, a snugly blanket, and cool drink and I’m in my own personal heaven.

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

To turn around a bad day I drop my stuff at home and escape into either my writing, a book, or a hot bath with Epsom salts. Sometimes taking even 30 minutes to myself to recalibrate is all I need.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is…Home. I don’t care if I’m doing anything important or half-way interesting, if I’m at home, I’m a happy girl. Boring? Never, I’ve got everything I need under one roof.

 

Michelle

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Fall, because of sweater weather and my birthday 🙂

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Do some yoga and getting in touch with my inner chi

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

 Happiness is Ben Affleck.

Christmas Spirit at the YWCA

As a new front-desk volunteer this year, I discovered quickly that it was very easy to discern which holidays were approaching simply based off the décor in the YWCA. I saw the YWCA change from cozy to spooky when Halloween approached and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. However, nothing could compare to the Christmas spirit that I felt this December.

I entered my first December volunteer shift feeling the stress from impending exams and last minute assignments to find the YWCA transformed overnight to something seemingly decorated by Cindy Lou Who herself. My senses were immediately bombarded with sparkle and the smell of peppermint making it impossible to feel anything but absolute joy. It was amazing to see how the presence of a Christmas tree and a few other decorations seemed to change the entire morale within the shelter. It seemed as if the happiness was contagious as many of the guests began discussing how grateful they were for being able to stay in the shelter over the holiday season, a time when so many struggle to find shelter and food.

The Christmas spirit seemed to continually infect everyone in the shelter as mid-December approached. The willingness of the guests to help one another within the shelter was very inspiring as they offered their time and advice to others. Most touching was watching one guest help another guest, an older woman who was unable to speak English, call landlords and visit prospective rental properties. This guest also took it upon herself to help this older woman learn the bus system in St. Catharines and showed her around the area. The older woman was so grateful that she began to cry (I might have been crying by this point too) and described how the YWCA was her Christmas miracle.

The Christmas spirit, however, did not end at the confines of the YWCA property. It rather seemed as if all of St. Catharines was in the giving mood, providing the YWCA with very generous donations. The previously barren Kate Leonard room became piled high with donations including personal care products and winter jackets. I was also finally forced able to learn how to fill out a donation receipt as generous people flooded the YWCA with monetary donations. I also saw numerous students finish off exams and immediately come in to inquire about volunteer opportunities within the shelter.

Perhaps it was a sugar high from helping myself to a bucket of candy canes at the front desk, but I really felt more in the Christmas spirit during these days volunteering than I could after any Christmas movie marathon. And while the importance of decorations can seem very miniscule in the grand scheme of things, their ability to awaken the holiday spirit cannot be taken lightly. Also, the importance of donating even something as simple as time (especially if you’re a broke student like me) is crucial to the running of community organizations who rely on volunteers to function. It also allows us to remember how lucky we are to have shelter, food, family and friends in the holiday season.

Lest we forget…Remembrance Day Ceremonies in Niagara

At our October Blogger’s Meeting, planning for the November posts was underway and I wholeheartedly volunteered to look up and prepare a post that would inform anyone reading our blog where this year’s Remembrance Day Ceremonies were taking place throughout Niagara.  Easy, peasy I thought, this should take all of two minutes as the information will be right at my finger tips !

poppy-353699_640What I thought would be a very easy search on the websites of the City of St. Catharines, City of Niagara Falls, City of Welland and Town of Fort Erie, unfortunately took a lot longer than expected – if I found it at all, and left me feeling a little saddened at the lack of history.

Top acknowledgement to the City of St. Catharines  – Had it in the running banner, and it was a quick search to find a nice introduction and the following information:

Every year on Nov. 11 Canadians come together for Remembrance Day to reflect and acknowledge the men and women who served or continue to serve their country during times of war, conflict and peace.

During a moment of silence at 11 a.m. Canadians remember and honour the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for our country. The City of St. Catharines observes Remembrance Day at City Hall Nov. 11 by laying wreaths at the Honour Rolls and the Watson Memorial before joining the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 at the Cenotaph at Memorial Park on St. Paul Street West.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 Remembrance Day Ceremony

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 will hold its annual Remembrance Day ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

Schedule of Events

Time Event
9:55 a.m. Parade will form along Church Street in front of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24.
10:10 a.m. Procession will leave the Legion and travel west along Church Street to City Hall. Wreaths will be placed at the Honour Rolls and the Watson Memorial at City Hall and the Last Post will be sounded.
10:30 a.m. Procession continues west on Church Street to Ontario Street, south on Ontario Street and west onto St. Paul Street West, stopping at Cenotaph Memorial Park. There will be a police escort at the start and end of the procession, but there will be no road closures.
10:45 a.m. Commemorative Service held at Memorial Park Cenotaph.
11 a.m. Two minutes of silence will be observed.

Remember

Other Remembrance Day Ceremonies

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 350

57 Lakeport Rd. Sunday, Nov. 9 10:30 a.m. to noon – Service and parade

Royal Canadian Legion Polish Veterans Branch 418

294 Vine St. Sunday, Nov. 9 Noon – Service

In second place, comes the City of Welland, scrolling down on their Home page, I found the following link to an invitation to the Annual Remembrance Day Service – below:

 You are cordially invited to attend the

ANNUAL REMEMBRANCE DAY

PARADE AND SERVICE

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Parade and Ceremony

When: November 2, 2014, 1:45 pm

Where: Chippawa Park Cenotaph, First Avenue, Welland

REMEMBRANCE DAY SERVICE

NOVEMBER 11

The service will begin at 10:45 am (approx.).

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 4 invites everyone to attend this service. Due to the limited time available, only the service will be performed. All speeches and presentations will have already taken place at Chippawa Park on Sunday, November 2. Morningstar Avenue will be blocked to traffic by 10:30 am. It is advisable to arrive before then or use the back entrance off of Ontario Road.

REMEMBRANCE WEEK

NOVEMBER 1 TO 11

LEST WE FORGET

THEY SERVED TILL DEATH – WHY NOT WE?

In third comes the Town of Fort Erie – quick link on their home page brought me to the info below:

Rememberance Day Parade

Date: 11/09/2014
Sunday November 9, 2014. Parade from Legion to Cenotaph for Service then parade back to Legion Branch 71, corner of Garrison and Central Ave. Parade starts at 2 p.m.

Sadly, in last place I have to put the City of Niagara Falls – see below:

No results found for my search.

Surprisingly enough they had a feature on the home page about the 1812 Bicentennial Celebration taking place February 2015.  Did I miss something?  If there are ceremonies going on in Niagara Falls – please send us the information – we’d be happy to post it.

Tuesday, November 11th is Remembrance Day, if you are in St. Catharines, I may see you at the Commemorative Service held at the Cenotaph, as the YWCA lays a wreathe in memory and thanks to the many men and women that fought for, and continue to fight our freedom.

Update Before Post Deadline:  Just got an email, and checked it out – the Regional Municipality of Niagara’s website came through big time and provided the list of Remembrance Day Services – throughout the Region.  Sharing with everyone below:

On November 11, remember those men and women who served and sacrificed to protect the freedom that we graciously enjoy today.

All regional offices will be open on November 11 except for the Provincial Offences Court.

 Remembrance Day Services in Niagara Region

The following is a list of services in Niagara region. There may be other services in your community that are not listed here.

City / Town Address Date Start Time
Fort Erie Mather Arch 130 Garrison Rd. Nov. 9, 2014 1 p.m.
Ridgeway Cenotaph 228 South Mill St. Nov. 11, 2014 11 a.m.
Stevensville Hall 2508 Stevensville Rd. Nov. 9, 2014 2 p.m.
Grimbsy Grimsby Cenotaph 233 Elizabeth St. Nov. 11, 2014 11 a.m.
Niagara Falls Gale Centre 4171 Fourth Ave. Nov. 11, 2014 11 a.m.
Niagara-on-the-Lake St. Mark’s Church 41 Byron St. Nov. 11, 2014 Noon
Pelham Centennial Park 999 Church St. Nov. 9, 2014 8:30 a.m.
Old Pelham Town Hall 491 Canboro Rd. Nov. 11, 2014 11 a.m.
Port Colborne
  1. H. Knoll Path Cenotaph H. H. Knoll Lakeview Park
Nov. 11, 2014 10:45 a.m.
St. Catharines Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 24) Church St. Nov. 11, 2014 9:55 a.m.
Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 350) 57 Lakeport Rd. Nov. 9, 2014 10:30 a.m.
Royal Canadian Legion (Polish Veterans Branch 418) 294 Vine St. Nov. 9, 2014 Noon
Thorold Royal Canadian Legion 3 Ormond St. S. Nov. 9, 2014 1 p.m.
Royal Canadian Legion (Memorial Park) 20 Chapel St. S. Nov. 11, 2014 10:30 a.m.
Welland Royal Canadian Legion 363 Morningstar Ave. Nov. 11, 2014 10:45 a.m.
West Lincoln Royal Canadian Legion 172 St. Catharines St. Nov. 11, 2014 10:45 a.m.

If you know of additional public ceremonies you’d like see added to this page, send them to us now.

Thank you.

Images courtesy of Google

Dear Diary, I slept in my car

 NFA LOGO

Pre-event Diary Entries:

Day: Can’t remember – but it was August 2013 – Weak moment during the Manager’s Planning Day crunching numbers for a balanced budget…agreed to actually participate in No Fixed Address in 2014, by sleeping in my car and raising pledges.

Day: June 16th – Bit the bullet and registered as a participant for NFA today.  It’s real, I am going to sleep in my car.  Posting my goal as $100.00.  I sent a plea out to my contacts looking for donations.  Emailed my daughter Arlee to register, we are in this together.

Day: July 9th – Reached my goal of $100.00 today – with one really generous donor.  Still feeling the high of reaching that goal, that I know will help the YW…..I raised it (internally in my own head) to $200.00 and am well on the way!

Day: July 20th – Got Arlee’s text – after registering she posted the event on her Facebook, and got two donations in the first 15 minutes.  She is super excited and confident she’ll reach her goal.  Can’t be that happy for her though, she is taking from our small family donor pool – I should have approached them first!

Day: August 8th – Attended the last official NFA Committee meeting before the event.  next week at this time.  I will be journaling my experience of spending 24-hours at No Fixed Address.

Day: August 11th – Volunteered to be at the Cardboard House, interactive display speaking to the myths and misconceptions around poverty and homelessness at the Pen Centre.  At our Emergency Shelters we have Women’s Advocates – staff that help the women and fMG_8165-1024x682amilies that come to our shelters for help.  I am Administration – to the core.  My mantra at the YW is…..and you can ask anyone…..”Let me get you an Advocate“!  These women are the professionals and I admire each and every one of them.  Today, I got a taste of what they must experience on a daily basis.  People going through the Cardboard House came through and shared some of the most intimate details of their lives, times when they too found themselves homeless and of how it took one special person to believe in them, or how they have come through it changed and grateful for the everyday things.  I was so touched I could only thank them for sharing their experiences with me.  It was affirming to hear that the work of the YW is important, and community support is critical in a person’s journey back from poverty and homelessness.  To the ladies and gentlemen that shared, thank you so much – you have given me yet another reason to participate in NFA.

Day: August 14 – Packing up for NFA tomorrow.  What does one pack to sleep in their car?  I keep telling myself, for me this is only for one night…..for others this is their reality.

Event Day Diary Entries

Day: August 15 – Up at 5:30 a.m. and sent a text to Arlee that I will see her after she is done work at NFA.  After strategically switching cars for the day (I now have our roomy Caliber – Steve has chitty-chitty bang-bang) I leave the house at 7:00 a.m. to help set-up the event area with the other committee volunteers (these people are energizer bunnies).  Packed the night before, as I head out the door, I feel I am as ready as I will ever be for the adventure ahead.

8:30 a.m. Registration open, participants begin to arrive.  I am helping with Volunteer Registration – we have so many giving their time today.  Shout out to our regular front desk volunteers helping with NFA, our faithful YWCA staffers, to the many Telus staffers, Target staffers, Sitel staffers and all the individuals that gave us their time.  Special mention to our regular IT guy, Greg from Powernet – every year he arrives early and gets us all set-up and connected for the computer work ahead.

10:00 a.m. Opening Ceremonies.  Participants setting up their car areas, registration is still underway and the “And Then Life Happens” game begins.  Choice or Chance…the participants get a taste of events that can happen …… that can change everything in an instant.

11:00 a.m. The Amazing Race gets underway for participants.  This fast-paced game puts participants through several challenges…..first to arrive at the finish line wins.  I participated in this event a few years back….we did not win…enough said, to elaborate more would only make me look bad.

Sweet note to add:  The winning family donated the gift certificate they won, back to the YWCA!

12:30 p.m. Lunch is served – big thank you to Rob Rolfe from Bistro on Church and his volunteer crew from Sitel for cooking.  Lunch was great – best hotdogs ever!

1:00 p.m. Guest Speaker – Very Powerful, first hand experience on living in poverty and the choices she had to make and continues to make.  Thank you for speaking out, you gave me goose-bumps.  Makes me grateful for everything I have – not material things, but for the support of family, friends and community.  I feel safe.

2:00 p.m. – Craft Stations and Bouncy Castle for kids.  I still have night terrors from last year when I helped supervise the bouncy castle.   Looks like everyone is having a good time – and are actively participating in the challenges posed to them in the And Then Life Happens game.

2:30 p.m. – I have begun to ration my water/liquid intake…..the port-a-potties are starting to scare me.  Trying to avoid an night time trip.

Friends drop by the event…I encourage them to come back later for the band…these are our rock’n roll friends, so they confirm they’ll be coming back later.

3:00 p.m. – Zumba by Shelley…..where does she get that energy?  I still can’t believe that the Welland Rose Court did Zumba……with their tiaras ……that is amazing!  Oh to be that young and graceful again.

5:00 p.m. Dinner is served – thanks again to Rob and his crew from Sitel.

Arlee messages me – she is on her way – did I save her a spot?  Oh YES I did pumpkin – strategically parked on the perimeter so she’d have easy access.  Feel better that she will arrive shortly.

5:30 p.m. (ish) Vinyl Flux begins rock’n the event – they draw a great crowd every year and we are busy at registration providing people with information and registering the later arrivals who just finished work.  I need to go see these guys next time they play in my neighbourhood.

Arlee arrives and helps us with registrations..I take her to see the cardboard house display – also looking for an opportunity to go into the mall….and the Target washrooms – very clean!  My rationing liquid is not working very well – I have the bladder of a squirrel.

7:00 p.m. Fire Trucks arrive – kids love it!

Arlee wants to get some mother/daughter pictures of us NFA 2014at the event…to post online.  Get Maria to snap several pics…several poses later, we agree on one we like for sharing. (this isn’t the one…but I liked it best)

7:30 p.m. Award for And Then Life Happens game presented.

8:30 p.m. Arlee and I head over to the car to set-up sleeping bags and change into what we think will be comfy sleeping in the car clothes (trust me, those clothes don’t exist).  As we lay out the sleeping bags and blankets, I notice that the Caliber isn’t really as big as I thought it was…. this is going to be…cozy.

9:00 p.m. Movie starts – the Terminal.  We are winding down, my registration duties done for the night…we take our camping chairs and sit by our car to watch the movie.  Someone pulls up, arriving late and completely blocks our view of the movie screen.  Slowly we turn, look at each other…and laugh hysterically.  I might be more tired than I thought.

We then spent the next 2 hours  talking about nothing and everything…..work, family, friends, upcoming events….future plans and dreams.  I really enjoyed this time just talking with Arlee – we need to do this more often (without the sleeping in my car part).

11:30 p.m. – Movie over, people are winding down.  We head over to the port-a-potties, for one last visit.  Yuk.  I remind myself, even port-a-potties aren’t an option for those living in their cars – I suck it up.  Learned I can hold my breath a lot longer than I thought I could!

12:00 midnight – all snuggled in – we have a brief conversation on safety – I win, we lock all the doors.  Did discover two things….the Caliber hatch-back doesn’t open from the inside and two sleeping bags does not a soft mattress make.

Arlee remembers a time when she was younger with her sister and their father, travelling to go camping they stopped roadside for him to sleep and were awaken by a police officer tapping on the window, shining a light into the car to see if everything was alright.  It was scary.  We agreed. even with our tinted windows, there is a vulnerability you feel when trying to sleep in the car.

Lost my socks under the blankets…start laughing hysterically….determine we are over tired and agree to sleep.

1:30 a.m. Starting to drift into a light sleep.  Last thought…..look over at Arlee sleeping – she looks the same way she looked sleeping at the age of five.  Comforted with the fact that I am not here alone.

1:30 a.m. – 5:50 a.m. – It was a fitful night spent trying to get comfortable, which was literally impossible.  Remember being thankful for two things – one – that Arlee doesn’t snore and two –  I am short and could stretch out from time to time.  Could hear the dull sound of the highway and remember thinking, this is only for one night.

August 16 – 5:51 a.m. Woke up, feeling a little stiff.  Arlee still sleeping.  It was still quiet, so I laid there watching the clouds, seeing the birds flying overhead experiencing the day begin.  Totally different feeling than when I experience the beginning of my day…in my own home, from my own bed.

I couldn’t imagine if this was my reality, how I would then begin my work day, go about my business, knowing that at the end of the day…I had to do it again, and again and again.

6:45 a.m. Arlee wakes up – finally.  I admit, I did poke her – I  was getting sore and just wanted to get out of the car.  Tall Arlee, finally got to stretch out – it may take a couple of hours, but she’ll walk upright soon.

We head over to the port-a-potties….people are getting up, I am hoping I look no worse for wear – but the understanding smiles we greet each other with says it all.

Decide to brush our teeth with bottled water and my toothpaste….BIG sorry to the two people sitting opposite us outside their car…I spat before I realized you were going to get the visual.  Figured if you used the port-a-potties this was nothing.

7:45 a.m.  Had coffee (missing my favourite mug) and a muffin for breakfast – tasted so good.  Thank you Tim Hortons!

8:00 a.m. Yoga by Sarah – I gave Arlee my yoga mat to use (so technically I was doing yoga too), she went to do the morning yoga with a few other flexible souls.  I headed over to registration trailer to see how the number counting was going.  Most of us slept over, you could tell the ones that didn’t……they were fresh faced and 100% coherent.  The rest of us were functioning on …. the power that this will be over soon.

9:00 a.m. Closing Ceremonies – Awards were given out – Arlee received the Social Butterfly Award – for using social media to promote the event.  This year’s NFA total raised over $52,000.00.  Excellent – big thank you to all those that participated, those who donated and supported this event.  What a great community.

After Event Diary Entry:

August 16 and 17 – Took two full days to recover from the experience.  Emotionally and physically.

sample 14I survived NFA 2014 – and I have the certificate to prove it.

More importantly, I feel I am a different person because of it.  Once you’ve lived an experience like this, you can’t forget it.  This has now become a part of me – I move forward with more empathy, more gratitude for what I have and the people that support me and even more determination to help fight poverty and homelessness in my community.  A car is not a home and a back seat is not a bedroom – I need to actively do my part in taking care of the most vulnerable – only then should we all sleep soundly in our own beds.