It’s only been a matter of weeks, but already the new storefrontlocation for the North York Women’s Centre is driving more traffic thanits previous home in a church.
Located in the St. Philip the Apostle Anglican Church for the past 20years, the centre recently moved to a former restaurant just north ofEglinton Avenue on Dufferin Street.
The centre provides life skills and survivor programs for women whohave faced abuse. They are also connected with a legal clinic, andoffer a university bridging program. It’s also a drop-in centre.
Although some finishing touches remain to be completed, the advantagesof the storefront location are already apparent, said Iris Fabbro, thecentre’s executive director.
“We have had more women just drop in off the street than in 20 years at the church,” she said.
In mid-November photos of volunteers, staff and community membersrested on tables and the floor waiting to be hung on the freshlypainted walls.
In Fabbro’s office, two congratulatory letters from MP Joe Volpe andMPP Mike Colle are resting on a desk, waiting to be proudly displayed.
While the centre had a healthy partnership with the church, the newspace will allow the organization to expand their programming in aneighbourhood that Fabbro says is devoid of such community services.
Many of their programs are held in libraries and other community spacesaround the city, and that will continue in order to allow easier accessfor women in various neighbourhoods.
There is a lot of excitement, however, about the possibility for simple drop-ins in the new storefront location, Fabbro said.
Before enrolling in specific programs many women would prefer to builda comfort level with the organization. The Toronto Star has offered tosupply free newspapers and there will be coffee and tea available.
“If you’re just coming in for a coffee and a free newspaper that’s yourway in the door, then that helps women feel comfortable to then startdisclosing and getting support,” Fabbro said.
Although the centre’s staff worked tirelessly to make this move happen,certain catalysts spurned overwhelming community contribution.
“There’s a woman who lives in this neighbourhood who made a donation that enabled us to get a storefront,” Fabbro said.
Renovations were needed though and a local architect generously offered to draw up the plans.
The woman and the architect preferred to remain anonymous.
Home improvement chain Lowes and a team of their employees donated their time and materials to put those plans into effect.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have pulled this off without the support of the community,” Fabbro said.
Fabbro said she saw the irony of a male architect and contractorworking on a centre for women, run by women. She said she joked withthem about it: “You guys realize when you’re finished here you won’t beallowed to come in.”
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