DINNER AND AUCTION - Ian Wheeliker, executive director of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter at the 24th annual dinner and auction March 16th. Michelle Falk/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Women’s Emergency Shelter holds 24th annual fundraising dinner

About 600 women and children used the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter last year

The Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter (CAWES) held their 24th annual dinner and auction at the Black Knight Inn on March 16th.

“When the community comes out and supports us at our dinner, what they’re really saying is they know we exist, they value our contributions and support what we are doing,” said Ian Wheeliker, executive director of CAWES.

He explained that the way it works in the charitable world is that the government never pays 100 per cent of any organization’s operating costs, the idea being that a cause needs to be valued by the community they serve.

Seventy percent of CAWES’ operating costs are covered by government grants, the rest they obtain through community support.

“Every year the shelter has to raise between $300,000 to $350,000 in fundraising,” Wheeliker said.

He said they expect the dinner and auction to raise over $50,000 for the emergency shelter. In addition to ticket sales there was a silent and live auction, a raffle for two West Jet tickets to anywhere they fly, a 50-50 raffle and ‘buy a cork win a bottle of wine’ raffle.

This money goes towards funding extras such as personal care items, food costs (which reached $15,000 last year), transportation of clients to and from appointments and education programs for families on how to break cycles of trauma.

About 600 women and children used the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter last year.

“Most of the women that come to our shelter really have no other alternative.

“A lot of them are dealing with poverty, some of them have been extremely traumatized—many since childhood and throughout their adult lives,” Wheeliker said.

Women stay at the shelter for an average of 22 days, depending on their situations. Some just need to remove themselves from an unsafe situation for a week, others who are not able to reconcile with an abusive partner need to completely start over. It can take a few months for people in these cases to find new housing, get their finances settled, get their children enrolled in school and find work.

Wheeliker said at this point they can’t offer longer term services to their clients and refer them to second stage organizations like the Women’s Outreach Centre.

“We’re working on expanding our services to include a significant number of apartments in the near future,” he said.

Wheeliker added that they are very interested in what will come out of the upcoming capital budget announcement from the Government. They hope there will be funding allocated for emergency and secondary stage services in Central Alberta.

Many of the women accessing the shelter come with children, and have mental health challenges and addiction problems as a result of the trauma they have experienced.

“More and more women are showing up with complex post traumatic stress disorder,” said Wheeliker.

The shelter has done an enormous amount of training and they plan to continue to educate their frontline workers in these areas of need.

CAWES is currently undergoing an 18-month evaluation project of all their services to make sure that they align with best practices.

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