This Year’s UFCW 401 Shoe Drive Another Huge Success

On December 1st the UFCW 401 Women’s Committee in Edmonton pulled off yet another wildly successful event in support of local area women’s shelters.

The annual Shoe Drive is becoming not just an invaluable way to collect much needed gently used footwear for those fleeing abusive homes, but it’s also becoming a wonderful avenue for building community partnerships.

This year the 401 Women’s Committee collected a whopping 523 pairs of shoes, boots, and other footwear for women and children! It took numerous Shop Stewards, member activists, and 401 staff to make this another massive success.

The biggest congratulations and thanks must be extended to the Edmonton and area 401 women’s committee and their co-chair Sheena Thomson who put in many hours to organize this fantastic event.

Each year at this time, groups across the country organize shoe drives in order to collect as many pairs of women’s and children’s shoes, boots, sandals, and all other manner of necessary footwear to be donated to local women’s shelters.

In Alberta annually, more than 10,000 women and seniors need to access their local women’s shelter, oftentimes with children in tow. They are fleeing abusive situations, that are often life threatening, with only the clothes on their backs. Even more shocking, between 2015 and 2016, 8076 women and 8283 children were turned away from their local Alberta shelter for lack of space.

Most often they are unable to pack necessities in the rush to get out quickly, or when given some time, are unable to think clearly under the stress of fleeing their home to save their lives and that of their children, they often forget the most basic of necessities, including footwear.

It takes many community partners to make something this wonderful happen.

We also want to send out a very special thanks to Edmonton’s CDI College for being such great allies in this effort.

CDI provided a wonderful, warm, and welcoming environment for us to have our presentation ceremony, and provided treats and refreshments for all who attended. Students and faculty were encouraged to join us and the air was alive with excitement.

This year all footwear collected in the northern part of the province went to the Ermineskin Women’s Shelter Society in Maskwacis, which is comprised of 4 different Cree Nations, totalling about 17,000 residents.

On hand from the shelter were Director Sandra Ermineskin and Vice-Chair Donna Potts-Johnson.

Sandra brought greetings, thanks, and a message of optimism. Her words were inspirational and hopeful and we are so grateful for the work that she does for those in such dire and horrifying situations. While acknowledging pain, trauma, and injury, sister Ermineskin also spoke of rising up from a painful past, healing and ultimately triumph.

“We cannot live in the past, we must move forward… we will move forward,” she declared proudly.

She spoke passionately about the importance of collective community action, which contributes to the overall vitality and vibrancy of our communities.

“We can’t work in isolation… thank you so much that we can partner with you and get this message out there,” Ermineskin said. “

Also in attendance, Bruce Hinkley MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose whose riding boasts the location of the Ermineskin Women’s Shelter, and MLA Chris Neilsen for Edmonton-Decore whose riding is the home of CDI College’s North Campus.

A big thank you also to Maria Vincente, survivor of domestic abuse, for sharing her brave story of survival and triumph.  It was a hard story to tell and she met the challenge beautifully so that everyone in attendance understood clearly why these shoe drives are so important to those served and supported by these shelters.

Together, we will create the change we need. With the dedication of sisters Ermineskin, Thomson, Vincente, and all who contributed in any way, we are certain that women will be supported in their efforts to excise themselves from the circle of violence that is often so hard to leave, and start a new life free from danger.

Perhaps among the most hopeful statements made on this day was that of MLA for Edmonton-Decore, Chris Neilsen.

“One day, we will put these shelters out of business because there will no longer be a need.”