The Fort Saskatchewan Families First Society and three local salon owners received certificates of appreciation from the RCMP on Wednesday (Jun.6) for their recent work in supporting victims of domestic violence.
RCMP chief superintendent Shahin Mehdizadeh presented the certificates to Families First representatives Heather Boonstra and Jodi Heidinger and salon owners Lisa Crawford, Colline Stroud and Alan Skoreyko, congratulating them on their efforts to improve local resources for people trying to flee domestic abuse.
"It's been very evident to me when I go coast to coast and obviously very evident in this beautiful community of Fort Saskatchewan how actually families and citizens and organizations and administration work with the police to deal with some of these issues that unfortunately are present in the communities,” Mehdizadeh said to the small crowd gathered at the Fort Saskatchewan RCMP detachment. “But at least there are efforts that are being made to make it better.”
Last month the three salon owners -- Skoreyko from Retreat Salon and Spa, Stroud from Mantra Salon and Spa and Crawford from Simply Stunning Hair and Makeup – decided to organize a fundraiser after realizing that abuse victims in Fort Saskatchewan need more places to turn for help with the financial cost of starting over. Their four-day fundraiser, which included cut-a-thons and a pub night, brought in over $18,000 that will go into a permanent fund for abuse victims. Families First plans to use the money to help abuse survivors navigate their escape from dangerous situations.
According to Fort Saskatchewan RCMP staff sergeant Mike McCauley, domestic violence incidents have been on the upswing in the city, increasing about 35 per cent in the past few years before dropping 5 per cent only in the last year.
"This money will change lives. Because it will assist them in being able to leave should they decide it's time," said Heather Boonstra, executive director of Families First.
Jodi Heidinger, family violence prevention program coordinator with Families First, works with individuals who have been impacted by family violence. She said the new fund will fill a gap, giving victims help when there are no other financial avenues available. She gave the example of a client whose ex-partner slashed all her tires.
“There's really no funds that can be pulled from any current partnerships or resources to help eliminate that barrier for her,” Heidinger said. “The barriers can be very unique to the individual.”
The salon owners were surprised and humbled to be recognized for their fundraising accomplishments.
"I'm over the moon,” said Crawford. “I think we all went into this thinking we wanted to make a difference in the community. But to see how much of a difference we've made so far is very humbling.”
Stroud agreed, saying that she wasn’t expecting any sort of recognition when she offered her help.
“We just felt like there was a need and we wanted to fill that need," she said.
Skoreyko tipped his hat to the officers who witness firsthand the consequences of domestic abuse.
“They're the front line officers dealing with it on a day-to-day basis, so it's nice to know that they recognize our support,” he said.
Crawford said she and her fellow salon owners plan to bring the fundraiser back next year.
“Anything we come up with, I know I've got these two by my side. They're the ones that made it so big. Wasn't me. It was all of them," she said.