Almost a year ago, the Magdalene House Society welcomed their first residents into their long-time project of a safe housing establishment for victims of human trafficking.
As their first year of funding comes to an end, the Society is looking forward to various fundraisers – including the Sweet Tooth for Justice Gala – to help them raise the money needed to keep the housing program functional for another year.
When all the calculations are said and done, the Magdalene House Society is looking to raise $380,000 to secure their future expenses and operations costs.
“The two women that we have in the Magdalene House right now – they have just come so far in their recovery. It’s amazing to see the changes in them,” said Executive Administrator of the Society, Marian Cloutier.
“They are moving from being very afraid to beginning to learn to trust people. They are laughing, enjoying life and starting to build even very basic skills like how to cook pancakes. Their lives have been so dysfunctional that coming into a regular household environment is a huge accomplishment.”
Cloutier said the first year of operations has been full of learning moments, but that each of these has been an opportunity to better the Magdalene House project.
“One of the biggest challenges that we realized very quickly was that we didn’t really have the capacity to be a first-stage recovery home. That means taking women right off the street, out of their dangerous situation and straight into the house. That is primarily because when they are on the street, a lot of the women have addictions,” Cloutier explained.
“We didn’t have the capacity to work with them while they were detoxing. We realized that if we don’t have those skills and services in place, we will move to become a second-stage house.”
She said this presented a slight change in the working model of Magdalene House in that now the Society requires the women they take in to have completed a 30-day detox program. She said the new model of operations is working out much better than their original idea.
“The second-stage model is working quite well, but there were a few other things that had to be learned,” Cloutier added.
“These girls have lived some really tough lives on the street and sometimes one of the issues we see is the women have court charges against them. We were accepting girls into the house and realizing they needed to go to court in Lethbridge or Saskatoon and just we don’t have the capacity to provide those services. We have been learning along the way to deal with issues like that.”
She said the Magdalene House Society has come too far to simply close the facility, so she and the other board members have been working hard to make the program the best it can be within its capacity.
At this time, the board is looking to secure the next year’s operational funding. This year’s kickoff of their fundraising campaign will be launched at the annual Sweet Tooth for Justice Gala event this weekend.
“This year’s Sweet Tooth for Justice event has a big new element of a comedian from Denver. Her name is Stacey Peterson, and she will be providing the laughter for that evening. As well, we have a number of corporate sponsors on our side which is a new thing for us. That’s great because it means we are getting our name out there,” Cloutier said.
The event is taking place on Feb. 20th at the Black Knight Inn from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased at www.magdalenehouse.ca or by calling 587-273-4324.
“We have sponsors taking care of the decor, Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut Red Deer donating the chocolate and have the Troubled Monk Brewery providing some different beer samples. This year we’re going to try a chocolate and wine pairing at the chocolate station,” Cloutier said.
Cloutier said they are trying a new kind of fundraising campaign this year where people purchase puzzle pieces worth either $5, $10, $20 or $25. The pieces will come together to create a large banner representing the values of the Magdalene House Society.
“It’ll be a great visual and as people buy these one inch pieces, it will all come together. The poster says things like, ‘Fill our home with – love, respect, justice, hope’,” Cloutier said.
Dave Bouchard, president of the Magdalene House Society, said the home is extremely meaningful to the girls who reside there, and so it is important these fundraising events are successful.
“The largest part of our cost is staffing, because we are offering around the clock staffing. There is significant expense if you want to get good people and you have to pay them well,” Bouchard said.
“One of the things that impressed me the most was a resident who had written a letter to all of the board members. In that letter, something really stood out to me. She said it was the first time in her life that she’d been able to decorate a Christmas tree and to have a present under the tree with her name on it. When I read that part of the letter, I thought, what a simple gesture that meant so much to her. It was very moving.”
He encouraged the community to come out and support the moments like these that make the Magdalene House a successful project.