BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Lacombe does not have a designated women’s shelter, but the community is lucky to have Victim Services to help people escape from and cope with domestic violence.
Thanks to the generous contributions of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, Lacombe Victim Services has over the years been the recipient of over $50,000 in donations to help provide this very necessary service.
Michael Gouchie, head of the Royal LePage Lifestyles Realty group and leader of the local Shelter Foundation chapter, said he is proud of how his office comes together to provide this very important funding for Victim Services programs.
“Everyone in our office pitches in. Most of us are pretty passionate about community work, and (the Shelter Foundation) is part of how we show that,” Gouchie said.
“Domestic violence can be something that communities hide under the carpet, but knowing that we might have helped someone in being able to leave an abusive situation, especially with kids involved, is very powerful.”
Each year, the national Royal LePage Shelter Foundation raises approximately $2.5 million or more including their annual garage sales. Each April, communities come together to donate and re-purchase goods in support of women’s shelters, or in the case of Lacombe, the Victim Services unit.
“All the money within the Shelter Foundation goes directly to women’s shelters, or education programs regarding family violence. Lacombe doesn’t have a shelter, which is another long topic on its own,” said Gouchie.
He explained that he contacted the Royal LePage executive director to make the case of keeping the money raised in Lacombe in the City, filtered into the community through the Lacombe Victim Services group.
These donations began approximately seven years ago and have brought a total of over $51,000 to Lacombe Victim Services.
From there, Victim Services Executive Director Debbie Barron helps to get the money into much needed community efforts and programs.
“With the donations over the last seven years, we’ve been able to assist victims of domestic violence. For example, on a weekend we might receive a call from a member requesting assistance for a domestic violence victim that needs a safe place for the night. If the emergency shelter is full, we are able to assist with accommodations in a safe location for the family, or transportation to a safe place,” Barron said.
“Our unit does not transport, so having funds to assist with transportation to the women’s emergency shelter, court, or to assist the client getting home to family in another town or city where they have support is crucial.”
The money has also been used in Lacombe to bring awareness of healthy relationships to the community youth. Barron said she is hoping to work with the Red Deer women’s emergency shelter to collaborate on more educational opportunities in 2017.
“Without the donations from the Shelter Foundation, our unit would not have the financial resources to assist in these ways. We are very grateful to Michael and his fabulous team of realtors for their ongoing support,” she said.
Donations to the Shelter Foundation are not only supported by the annual garage sale, but also from the commissions of realtors company-wide. This is not a mandatory donation Gouchie said, but every realtor in the Lacombe office contributes regularly to the program.
He said it’s something they are proud to be a part of, especially when women speak with them during the garage sale and bring a kind word or a story of success.
“There have been many times where women will come up to us at our garage sale, and whisper thanks to us. Many have stayed in shelters themselves and for some, it’s saved their lives – that’s pretty powerful and meaningful,” he said.
“Many times these women have been in these shelters, and they will come back and make a donation or show their support for the program. That feels really good and it’s a very important cause to us.”