TORONTO — Elisha Wagman is determined to help abused women get a new start.
For five years, Wagman, 37, co-founder of Compound, a youth-based marketing agency, has headed a project aimed at collecting household items for women moving out of women’s shelters.
|Elisha Wagman, co-founder of Compound|
The seeds for the project were planted in 2002, she said, when she learned that North York Women’s Shelter had an emergency situation.
“The manager of fundraising had suddenly left, and there was a number of women moving out. The staff had nothing to give them that would help ease their transition.
“They were in a bind, and I conceived the project to help them through the process.”
Wagman, who has worked in fundraising for a number of non-profits, such as the Law Society of Ontario, said that colleagues at Compound, as well as thousands of volunteers, went to work collecting household items such as cutlery, shower curtains, towels, pots and pan dust bins, and brooms. The items – T-Fal donated a number of small appliances and Sleep Country donated some beds and had them delivered– were packed in laundry hampers or plastic storage bins.
“These were items the mothers could not afford. They’re not luxury items – they are necessities. Some mothers had four children, so the small amount of money the government provides as a start-up fee does not go very far,” Wagman said.
“I began to wonder that if it’s like this here, isn’t it like this at every shelter? I did some research and discovered that all shelters have a gap in services.”
In December, she said, they spent two days packing the collected items, and the Ontario Provincial Police delivered them to the some 30 shelters in the city, and helped them load and unload the kits.
Her ultimate goal for the project, Wagman said, is to teach staff at shelters to put together the kits themselves.
“Shelters are underfunded, and all their money goes towards programs and looking after the women,” she said. “It’s difficult, therefore, for them to assume the project, so we may have to do it until we get some trained volunteers.”
She’s always looking for volunteers to help out, she said, “especially families. It’s important for children to help shop for the items and help pack, because they learn an important lesson. We take so many things for granted. These women need items that we use without even thinking about it.”
Wagman said she has received a number of “rewarding and heartbreaking” letters from women thanking her “for making sure they’re not forgotten.”
To donate items or volunteer, call 416-920-5066.