There are two types of people in the world: those that love to move and those that do not. Either the thought of packing your life into labelled boxes, relocating across the city (or country) and then getting to settle into a whole new place totally excites you, or it stresses you out. Personally – while I’m not a huge fan of moving – I can get behind the idea of rearranging and decorating a new room to make it my own and getting to transform a house into a home; so I guess you could put me into camp number one. So when I moved into Robin’s Place (Next Step Ministries second safe house) last year in August, it’s safe to say that I was pretty excited. Not only was I going to get the chance to spend time and do life with the fantastic ladies who are a part of the Next Step program, but since this was the grand opening of the house I was going to be able to christen it. However, it wasn’t all fun and games, and I saw firsthand just how stressful moving into a new house and a new stage of life can be.
The women that come into our program get just over $625.00 a month, from which they are required to pay $323.00 for rent (which is mandated by the government not NSM), which leaves them around $300.00 a month to pay for food, clothes, personal items, cell phone bills, bus passes, and anything else that comes up during the month. Now if you thought that making a budget was hard, it’s even harder when you’ve never been taught how to, or when you don’t even know what you should budget for. The stress of having to pinch pennies, record each purchase, and restrict what you can buy and where you can go not only wears you down mentally, but it also drains you emotionally. It can begin to feel as though you’re stuck on a hamster wheel, always trying to keep your head above water. We never want our women to feel trapped for whatever reason while in the program, and so we try to help lighten the financial load for them however we can.
This is done mainly through donations, which can range from shampoo to salad dressing. While any donation is gladly accepted, the following is a list of items that we are always in need of:
- New underwear and bras and socks
- Grocery gift cards (Superstore/Wal-Mart) and Coffee cards
- Feminine hygiene
- Body wash, and liquid hand soap
- Assorted hair care products
- Cleaning products and supplies (toilet paper, paper towel, laundry soap, dryer sheets etc.)
- Journals and pens
- Water bottles and To-Go cups
- Adult colouring books, crossword and puzzle books
- “Girly” treats (nail polish, makeup, self-care items)
- Winter items
- Baking ingredients and spices
- Coffee and tea
- Pasta and rice
- Packaged sauces
- Lunch materials
- Canned goods
- Frozen meat and fish
- Meat alternatives (peanut butter, legumes, assorted nuts, etc.)
*Please no candles or other items used for burning as the women cannot have them in the houses
The first month living in Robin’s Place required a bit of creativity at times because not everything was there right away, and sometimes you’d go to bake something, and there was no baking powder, or you’d want to chop something, but there was no cutting board. You don’t realize how much you use something until you don’t have it around…like a screw driver. So I can speak from firsthand experience when I say that donated items are life savers.
And it doesn’t have to be a big ordeal to donate. I would collect clothing items from friends, family, and my own closet; and then everyone in the house would get together and have a little fashion show. It was amazing to see everyone’s faces light up as they tried on new clothes and strutted around the living room. There is power in something as simple as a new jacket or a clean pair of pants that can transform someone’s whole world. And don’t even get me started on the winter wares, but let’s just say that there were never enough wool socks!
To make a long story short, during my time at Robin’s Place I was able to see women overcome every kind of obstacle, from physical to spiritual to emotional, lives were transformed. But what I loved to see the most was the triumph in their lives when they were able to open a bank account, save money, and pay all of their bills while still being able to go out somewhere fun without having to worry. This relaxed state of mind wouldn’t be possible without the help of everyone who is willing to donate clothes, gift cards, cleaning products, wool socks, and the like to ensure that the women in our program can not only live but thrive.