Women’s Centre needs community support
City of Cranbrook council members found themselves standing on the edge of a slippery slope Monday night (Oct. 6).
While reviewing a letter from Denise Stewart, coordinator of the Cranbrook Women’s Centre, requesting a donation from the city to help purchase food for the centre, council members wrestled with the most common of matters that municipal elected officials deal with – public expenditures.
“Due to budget restraints, and a severe decline in community donations we are currently unable to offer food programs. These programs help women and children living on a low income have access to food. Access to food improves the health and welfare of families as well as their financial stability, the lack of which effects a community as a whole,” Stewart stated.
“ln the past the Women’s Centre was able to offer weekly lunches, a stocked food cupboard, good food baskets, and gift cards to Safeway or Superstore. We are now unable to offer any of these services. Since the beginning of the year we have been actively seeking other funding sources in our community but have been unsuccessful, which is why we are asking for the city’s help,” she explained.
While council members stated their concern for the Women’s Centre and desire to help, they noted that there are numerous organizations in the city in need of help and to provide it for one group and not another creates problems, let alone spending taxpayer funds meant for infrastructure support.
“I don’t want to go down this slippery slope. I think this is something the community can rally around,” said Coun. Diana J. Scott.
Coun. Angus Davis said he doesn’t favour spending taxpayer money on food but echoed Scott in an appealed to community members to help out.
“I’m amazed and thankful for the people who run these centres. I don’t think the community is aware of this,” he said, adding, “I appeal to the community” to help out and implored media at the meeting to spread the word.
“Cranbrook always rallies” for those in need, he said.
Coun. Sharon Cross pointed out that there are several locations in the city where people can obtain food, including churches, Street Angels, the Salvation Army and the Cranbrook Food Bank and pointed out that hunger is unfortunately not uncommon in the city.
“We’ve got 150 children who are at various stages of starvation,” she said, adding she’d like to receive more information from the Women’s Centre on what could be done.
Coun. Denise Pallesen recommended the centre approach the city when grants-in-aid are being considered. “The Women’s Centre has really struggled the last five or 10 years,” she said.
However, Coun. Gerry Warner pulled council back toward providing one-time help from the Council Contingency Fund.
“This sounds to me more about an emergency situation,” he said, adding he’d be willing to pass a motion to provide some funds.
“When it comes to food, it brushes aside these concerns. Let’s help them out,” he urged of council.
Mayor Wayne Stetski suggested another option, outlining his efforts to bring city service clubs together to join forces on a project.
“It’s all about working together for collaboration,” he said, informing council that he would bring it up with service club members when he meets with them again on Oct. 9.
However, Warner then made the motion for the city to provide $300 to the Women’s Centre.
“Even with $300 you can buy noodles, pasta, you can buy coffee. We’re not a social agency but by heart strings get stuck when it comes to food,” he said.
“How many people are we talking about? I really feel for them but we are not a social agency and I am a little concerned about going down that slope,” said Coun. Bob Whetham.
After further discussion, Warner’s motion eventually caught hold of council, with members voting six to one to provide $300 in emergency one-time funding for the centre.
Coun. Scott “reluctantly” voted against the motion.
Even with the city’s help, the Cranbrook Women’s Centre still needs financial support.
It is located at the Hub, in the old bingo hall on 2nd Street North (beside the Memorial Arena). Call 250-426-2912 or email [email protected] to connect with the centre if you would like to make a donation.