For years, Optimism Place, which provides shelter and support services for women and children who are survivors of violence in Perth County, has been badly in need of extra space. It had been running at capacity when the pandemic hit, and then things became even more dire.
To address this need, Jasmine Clark, the Executive Director, and her staff had been working for several years on plans for expansion of the facilities. So, when the federal government announced the Women and Children Shelter and Traditional Housing Initiative, they were ready! Optimism Place applied in January 2022 for funding to expand the current building.
A few months later, Jasmine was one of the presenters at the Pyramid Centre in St. Marys on International Womenâ€™s Day 2022 when Donna Jean Forster-Gill, her co-worker and co-writer on the grant proposal, called to tell her that they got the grant â€“ and all that they asked for! This funding of $3.4 million will help to more than double the number of beds available for women and children in need in Perth County as well as provide other much needed space.
The official announcement of the grant was made last Thursday night (September 8) at a dinner at the Christian Reformed Church in Stratford, attended by several public officials including John Nader, Matthew Rae and Kim McElroy who presented several awards and acknowledgments on behalf of the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments.
The evening started out with a presentation by Anne McDonnell, the long-time former Executive Director of Optimism Place. She told stories of the early days, the important role played by the Optimist Club, and the importance of the Perth County community in supporting this essential program.
Kristene McCurdy of St. Marys also said a few words on behalf of the Lindner family. Kristeneâ€™s father, Wayne Linder, was the President of the Optimist Club in 1983 when the Club purchased the house that would be used as the first womenâ€™s shelter and first home of Optimism Place.
The evening program closed with some words by Stratford City Counsellor, Kathy Vassilakos, who is a member of the Building on Hope Capital Campaign Committee. This campaign aims to raise an additional million dollars to cover costs not covered by the capital funding, including furnishing and additional office and community space.
St Marys resident Nancy Preston, a current Optimism Place Board Member and member of the Capital Campaign Committee, can be contacted at email@example.com for any individuals or groups interested in supporting the Campaign.
Besides Kristene McCurdy and the three members of the Board who live in St. Marys, other attendees at the dinner from St. Marys included Andrea Strathdee representing her father, Mayor Al.
In addition to the Federal funds dedicated to this project, Optimism Place will also receive a $100,000 grant provided from the Resilient Communities Fund by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. This investment will support their efforts to rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 as well as in increasing their fundraising and communications capacity and undertake a feasibility study to explore the development of a social enterprise led by women in Perth County.