Since opening its doors officially on October 26, 2018, Viola’s Place Society has had only two nights without occupants and those were the first two nights. Since then, volunteers have offered shelter, warmth, food and companionship to 38 different guests.
Bednights, referring to one guest who spends the night, have totaled 596 since opening until March 29, 2019, Mark Firth, board member, announced at its annual general meeting that evening.
Firth elaborated, “November was 103 bednights, December was 152 bednights, January 115, February 108 and up to March 29th 118.”
Multiply that by three for the total meals served, along with an open kitchen that guests would help themselves to.
Trying to stay open twenty-four hours takes a lot of volunteers, funding and collaboration within the community.
Recently the society was awarded a grant that helped hire a full-time manager. Lisa DeYoung started in March 2019 and supplies a wealth of knowledge and experience from her Social Worker and experience in a homeless shelter while living in Red Deer, Alta.
Grants and local fundraising help to keep the doors open, heat on and provide nutritious food to those who need it. Marilyn Mackean, who helped start the palliative care program for the Aberdeen Hospital and local RN, was in attendance to ask about training and the meals. Rebecca MacDonald, in charge of Meals and Food Security, clarified that generally, the guests make their own meals unless they need assistance by a volunteer.
Warden Robert Parker also attended and praised the work of the society. Viola’s Place Society operates as a non-profit society whose mission is to alleviate homelessness. This is done with the help of local businesses and individuals who donate non-perishable items and funds to purchase perishable food.
While awaiting approval to become a charity, Viola’s Place Society plans to coordinate a spare change day on October 10th World Homeless Day, as well as Bingo’s and other events much like StringRay’s record sale which raised over $17,000 for them. They are also waiting for news from a grant application to help replace the leaking roof.
The current project is having Wilson’s Security install new generously donated security systems throughout the building.
With a volunteer training program that can be arranged when any new volunteer steps up, the society does require free criminal record checks which are provided free through the local RCMP office.
A non-denominational board or faith-based, board member Brian Bowden opened the meeting in prayer, saying “we do believe in prayer for opening and closing our meetings.”
Reverend Doctor Moses Adekola of the Second United Baptist Church in New Glasgow closed with his personal tale of why he believes in the society and finally ended the night with a prayer. Adekola, originally from Africa, came to Canada in 1990 and said he came from a very, very hot country for two reasons – “number one, Canada is a peaceful country, no guns in their pocket and secondly because of snow.”
“From the deep of my heart, we appreciate you much,” Adekola refers to the volunteers and businesses of the community who have helped Viola’s Place Society and, in turn, our neighbours in need.
The Viola’s Place board assembled at the facility to host their first Annual General Meeting last week.