By Candice Lee
Fresh Start Creations, an innovative program that provides opportunities for women in prison to make positive contributions to their communities, recently raised $2,000 for four community agencies in the Waterloo region.
The women create handmade greeting cards at Stride Night, a social recreation program facilitated by Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region (CJI). The cards are sold in the community at several locations: Queen St. Commons, Gifted Waterloo, Button Factory Arts, Open Sesame, Waterloo Region Museum, the Ontario Provincial Legislative Assembly Gift Shop, Grand Valley Institution (GVI) and CJI. All of the proceeds are donated to charity.
On Feb. 13 and 15, GVI medium and minimum populations, in collaboration with CJI, hosted two events to present four cheques totalling $2,000 to the following organizations: One Roof, The Healing of 7 Generations, Front Door, and KW Counselling Temper Taming Program.
The recipients of the donations are chosen by the offenders. The following is an excerpt of the speech from one of the offenders at GVI who was involved in this initiative, explaining why Front Door was selected:
“...Front Door is a non-profit mental health organization that provides programs, services and information that assist children, youth and their families residing in communities across the Waterloo Region. They specifically cater to young individuals from birth to 18 years of age or parents of children within this age bracket who need mental health services. In addition, they provide support to families, community members and professionals.
“One of the many services provided through Front Door is the Walk-in Services for youth. This immediately grabbed our attention along with our votes. When we heard the term walk-in, I believe for many of us the definition that automatically came to mind was all are welcomed no matter who you are, where you're from, religion, race, gender or background. Walk-in, no appointment needed. No fear of being turned away because you did not call ahead to be seen, nor do you have to be on a special list to be some type of member. Front Door, where the door is open to all youths, a place where they can come freely to find the support, guidance, and help that they need.
“Many of the women here at Grand Valley are Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Older Sisters, and Godmothers. One of the most important things to us women are children, children who are in need of help and the women of these children who are seeking help for them. So for us a place like Front Door is appreciated, a place where our youth can walk in and know that they will be provided with assistance right away. The choice was easy and we are proud that you are one of the recipients for today's donation...”
To date, the women of Grand Valley have donated $5,500 in proceeds of Fresh Start Creations.
Other recipients have included Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Anselma House, Haven House, YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo, Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, Child Witness Center, and Marillac Place.