High-risk women have been finding refuge in Williams Lake ever since the Great Room opened its doors in November 2011.
Inspired by her work with women and girls through Linwood Ministries in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and helping rescue girls in the sex trade in Thailand, Dina Kennedy started The Great Room in the lakecity.
“It is a drop-in support group for women who are at high risk in our community,” said Kennedy, who is celebrating The Great Room’s five-year milestone with a dinner and auction Oct. 1.
“Women come here from all walks of life and a lot of them already have supervision, but lack a one-on-one personal relationship so that’s what I am trying to build.”
Guest speakers come in to speak on issues that are important to the women.
“For example, they want to know how to keep themselves safe at night, if they have to walk on the streets,” Kennedy said, noting other topics covered include hygiene, medical issues or depression, even healthy eating on a limited budget.
Each year 12 women attend a yearly retreat, and this year’s was held in Lac La Hache.
“The retreats are life-changing because you take them out of everything they know — their hardships and struggles — and you take them on a journey where they are pampered and loved.”
Sponsorship from the community always helps make the retreat possible, she added.
During the last five years, 98 different women have come through the Great Room doors to get off the streets and find a place to relax, share, feel valued and safe.
“If they don’t want to share in our sharing circle they don’t have to,” Kennedy said. “Some of them sit and do puzzles, some will do beadwork and I have different people in the community coming in to do crafts with them.”
Recently the women created a love line, where each woman decorated an envelope with their name on it.
People can write notes to let a person know you are thinking about them and place it inside the envelopes.
“Once a month we open the envelopes and share what is in them,” she said, noting the idea was suggested to her by one of the women who had done the same thing while away at rehab and recovery for three months.
“She talked to me about it and thought it would be a wonderful thing to do here,” Kennedy added.
The Great Room is for women 18 years and older. Some are referred by the Women’s Contact Society, Victim Services, the RCMP, through Gateway or word of mouth, open Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
A dinner and silent auction for the Great Room will take place Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Salvation Army at 272 Borland Street.
Author and inspirational speaker and domestic abuse counsellor Kamal Dhillon is the guest speaker. Doors open at 6 p.m. with dinner at 6:30. Tickets are available at the Salvation Army or Cariboo Quality Cleaners.