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From dream to reality in under 3 weeks: The fast pace of feminine power creates a women’s centre in Freeport, Digby County

Monica Stark, the driving force behind the Island's Women Centre, serves up a warm bowl of free soup for the drop-in guests.  Leftovers from the batch of soup were frozen and available at the centre free store. AMY TUDOR PHOTO
Monica Stark, the driving force behind the Island's Women Centre, serves up a warm bowl of free soup for the drop-in guests. Leftovers from the batch of soup were frozen and available at the centre free store. AMY TUDOR PHOTO - Amy Tudor

It started out as a normal evening. A couple of friends getting together. But then they started to dream out loud.

What if Freeport had a women’s centre?

What if there was a place where women of any age could drop in for a free hot meal or the companionship of other women?

What if young moms could get a break – enjoying some adult conversation while their kids had the opportunity to play?

What if?

What if?

These questions have since been answered. Because this dream is now a reality.

On Feb. 26 the community hall in Freeport, Digby County, hosted the opening of the Islands Women’s Centre. The drop-in centre at the hall is open every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It offers women of the Islands area a free hot lunch in a safe, warm, comfortable place to relax and enjoy company.

Verna Tatton takes notes as the group of ladies brainstorm all the local community events to help in the creation of an Islands actives calendar.  AMY TUDOR PHOTO
Verna Tatton takes notes as the group of ladies brainstorm all the local community events to help in the creation of an Islands actives calendar. AMY TUDOR PHOTO

The centre was the brainchild of Monica Stark, whose goal was “to provide a safe welcoming place for self-identified women of all ages.”

“We wish to provide practical and emotional support, as well as to foster a sense of community and build intergenerational relationships among women,” she said.

Stark presented her idea to the Freeport Village Commission at its monthly meeting a few days after coming up with the idea. Her request was met with great enthusiasm from the commission and was approved that night.

One week later, the centre opened with 14 women from both islands – Long Island and Brier Island – visiting throughout the day.

Smiles and companionship at the new women’s centre. AMY TUDOR PHOTO
Smiles and companionship at the new women’s centre. AMY TUDOR PHOTO

Hot soup, hot beverages and hot-topic conversations were shared around the table.

The centre will also work with the existing Islands food bank in a few ways. The centre was given feminine and personal hygiene products from the food bank to have available at the centre’s ‘free store,’ hoping that those in need may find this venue a more comfortable location to pick up such items.

to the donation of a deep freezer, the centre plans to have batch cooking events where women can make and store individual and family-sized portions of homemade meals that will be accessible to anyone in the community, no questions asked.

The centre is located next to the school and there is the hope that the young female students of Islands Consolidated School will take advantage of the warm location, the free hot lunch and other services being offered at the centre during Tuesday lunch breaks.

One of the future goals of the centre is to outreach and host weekly gatherings in other locations such as Brier Island and Tiverton. The goal of these outreach programs will be to bridge the gap between the areas and develop bonds between the communities.

This new women’s centre has already made connections with larger women’s centres and support networks such as the Tri-County Women’s Centre and Juniper House and will have outreach workers from these organizations visit the area to help provide education and information about available services.

The centre already has a grant to host a free St. John's Ambulance Mental Health First Aid course, the date and times to be announced on the centre’s Facebook page.

(Amy Tudor, the author of this article, is a freelancer for the Tri-County Vanguard)

Personal hygiene items available in the free store.   AMY TUDOR PHOTO
Personal hygiene items available in the free store. AMY TUDOR PHOTO

Events, activities and ideas for the centre include:

• Women’s walking group: once/twice a week scheduled walks from spring to fall

Book club

• Workshops with a focus on holistic wellness (mind, body, spirit, financial, parenting…)

• Winter clothes exchange: drop off outgrown children’s winter gear and exchange for new-to-them gear

For more info

Visit the Facebook page for the Centre at https://www.facebook.com/IslandsWomen/

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