Women in Need Society Helps Community Flourish
Calgary’s Women in Need Society (WINS) was founded in 1992. Over the years they’ve grown to six thrift stores and five community hubs; several of which are located in Calgary Housing Company properties. The organization runs a range of community programming from their Retail Ready program to new parent courses. This year, WINS is on track to give away over $850,000 of free goods to the community. They’ve partnered with CHC for 17 years. Today we’ve met at their Community Hub in Erinwoods to talk about the ways they’ve helped the residents in Erinwoods thrive.
Sam, Yazmin and Sarah all work with WINS. Yazmin runs much of the resident programming at Erinwoods. Today is the snack program. She shows a kitchen filled with about 50 brown paper bags each holding a juice box and several snacks. The doorbell rings every few minutes and Yazmin warmly welcomes in a child to offer them a snack. Some stay to colour, others head straight home. “They may not have snacks to take to school,” says Yazmin, explaining how housing affordability challenges are often accompanied by food affordability challenges.
The need is increasing she says, explaining how a mother from the community recently stopped by to ask for bus tickets because she was no longer able to afford gas for her car. Yazmin was able to connect her with the fair entry program at the City of Calgary, so she can now take public transit at a reduced cost.
Sam shares that the House to Home program has seen a 64 per cent increase in referrals over the past year, and that they receive requests for food bank referrals every day. “If kids could come for the snack program more than once a week, they would.” Demand for the food bank Calgary is currently at record levels, and CHC’s waitlist broke 5,600 households in October.
At Erinwoods they run seven programs, snack time, library, craft time, special events, parenting classes, a womens group and Youth Coding Club.
The parenting programs are split into three groups: the first is a mother goose program, it is an attachment-based parenting class, focused on bonding. The next are early learner classes aimed at parents with children 3 to 5 years old, it helps prepare parents to prepare their children for school. And the last is an independent parenting class focused on helping parents develop strategies and ideas to address behaviours and to support and guide parents as needed.
WINS also offers employment support including setting up mock interviews, editing resumes, assistance navigating online job boards, and retail and warehouse ready programs. 54 per cent of employees in WINS thrift stores are graduates of the retail ready program. They also provide workwear, including interview clothes, through their thrift stores.
In the community, WINS is there to lend a hand as needed. Sarah shares the story of a mother with seven children, with an eighth on the way, who recently received new beds for the whole family and backpacks just time for school. The children never miss a snack time at Erinwoods. And Sarah mentions she saved a turkey to help the family with their thanksgiving dinner.
Sam says much of the funding to run these great programs is generated by the WINS thrift stores. They’re a social enterprise, she says, and they “aren’t top heavy, money is funneled back into the participants. 88 per cent of the revenue we generate goes directly into participant support programming.” Shopping at a WINS thrift store, or donating goods to one, directly benefits the participants that WINS serves.
CHC is proud to partner with WINS and to operate community hubs in Erinwoods, Dover, Beltline, Lincoln Park, and Temple. Together they help residents flourish and thrive in their communities.