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Calendar girls make a $24,000 difference for County women in need

The Ladies on the Rocks present $24,000 to Alternatives for Women representatives (centre) AFW chair Caroline Granger, executive director Leah Morgan, and counsellor Kelly Knott.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
It was a long-term project that began with the simple idea of creating a calendar, where it was decided any funds raised could be given to a local, worthy cause. Eighteen-months in the making, it included 21 brave and beautiful Wellington on the Lake residents, and a number of local businesses, who willingly jumped on board with the idea.

A lot of hard work and perseverance ensued with this group of dedicated and determined women, who called themselves the Ladies on the Rocks. Countless volunteer hours were devoted to the project, which included marketing and sales. But it was the community, and the  many visitors to Prince Edward County, that made it all happen, as individuals and organizations stepped up to purchase the calendars throughout the summer.

Saturday morning saw the culmination of the project celebrating $24,000 raised for Alternatives for Women, specifically to their newly renovated home, Vi’s Place. The Ladies on the Rocks presented half of the total in August to help Alternatives complete the building renovations . (Corrected from earlier version)

“Today, we can not only say we reached our goal, but we have exceeded that goal,” said Christine Trulsen, a Ladies on the Rocks member, and the woman behind the initial idea.

“This is a day we were all looking forward to,” said Trulsen. “It is a day filled up with pride, joy, excitement and a sense of accomplishment that seemed so far away in April when we launched our calendar project.”

Trulsen thanked not only the 21 Ladies on the Rocks who were fundamental in making the calendar project happen, but also family, friends, neighbours, supporters, as well as all the people and businesses who made the project a reality.

“We sold enough calendars to make a difference to women in need in Prince Edward County,” noted a very proud Trulsen.

Representing Alternatives for Women were chair Caroline Granger, executive director Leah Morgan, and Kelly Knott, a violence against women counsellor.

Also in attendance were Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson, and Wellington councillor Mike Harper.

“During the past eight months, all 21 of us have worked very hard, and often outside our comfort zone,” Trulsen said. “We have challenged ourselves, we have grown personally, we have formed lasting friendships, we have helped each other to cope with many personal and health issues. We have listened to heart-breaking stories from people that purchased our calendar; we laughed and cried, and we formed a bond that probably only women can form.”

Leah Morgan, executive director, Alternatives for Women, said they could not have completed the renovations on time without the generous contribution.

“Not only are the funds such a huge help to get Vi’s Place up and running, but it was just such an empowering project, it just meant so much to us what you have done, and it’s such a beautiful piece of work,” said Morgan.

“Words cannot express the gratitude; we are just beyond grateful for everything you have done and all the work you have put into this project.”

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith said it was an excellent accomplishment and a beautiful cheque. “I know that Alternatives for Women in the County are going to put that to very good use,” said Smith.

He touched on his new role as minister responsible for children, community and social services, noting it also included women’s issues.

While Smith had some fun divulging his favourite month in the calendar, he also noted how it is a very serious topic.

“We are in middle of 16 Days of Activism leading up to the 30th anniversary of the attacks on women at École Polytechnique in Montreal,” said Smith, who reminded the audience those women were targeted just because they were women.

He also noted that it was important for men and boys to stand up to violence against women, because men and boys play a very important part in ending violence against women.

Caroline Granger, Alternatives for Women chair, mentioned how in April she talked a lot about how upsetting and startling it was for her to know that there were more than 50 women who didn’t sleep safely in the County (in any given year), because there was nowhere safe for them to sleep.

“This project brought so much more than the money. You actually gave us the courage to be as brave as you are and get out and connect with the community, and deliver a 20-year goal of bringing a safe bed to Prince Edward County,” said Granger, noting the awareness developed in the community over the course of the campaign. “I believe that you women were really the grass roots of that.”

Granger confirmed moving-in day was Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Mayor Ferguson agreed that what the Ladies on the Rocks accomplished was not just raising money, but raising awareness.

“I want to tell you what a spectacular job you have done since April 13 when we were gathered in this room for the launch, and what has subsequently occurred,” said Ferguson, noting the calendars were sold at the Wellington Farmers’ market over the summer, at all the fairs and at every public occasion he attended.

Councillor Harper said it was another example of Wellington on the Lake really stepping up and being a great example and contributor.

“One thing about being a small community, we really do depend on volunteers and donations to make ends meet, and you’ve done a tremendous contribution that way,” Harper said.

The calendar was based on the blockbuster British movie ‘Calendar Girls’, (2003) a true story of a group of middle-aged Women’s Institute members from Yorkshire who produced a tastefully nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research, honouring the recent cancer death of a member’s husband.

One of the calendar photographs, taken at Lockyer’s Country Gardens.

Cathy Ness, a proud member of the Ladies on the Rocks, explains how she was in the first picture that was taken in the lavender fields.

“One morning, we drove to a field of flowers to take our clothes off and we were all laughing because it was just so out of our zone. It was something that we had never thought of doing, and that smile on our face that you see was that nervous laughter bursting out,” said Ness. “Here we are in the centre of a field with a man we hardly know taking our picture, and we have no clothes on!”

Ness describes the project as inspiring.

“Something really beautiful came out of it, and so I think that inspired me to keep going, and I’ve grown a bond with the some of the other ladies.”

Ness said when they initially visited Alternatives for Women to find out more about what the charity did, none of them realized how much they could actually do for them, a process she calls humbling.

“I was overwhelmed with the support we had from the community at large, and to be able to raise that much money was just mind-boggling,” said Ness. “I am just so grateful now for this whole project because I feel it has brought us closer to the community.”

She said she feels a huge sense of accomplishment, describing the County as a beautiful place to live, and a very generous place.

“Know you can step out of your comfort zone for anything,” she said.

“We took what seemed to be a crazy idea from making a calendar bearing all, to selling 1,500 calendars, some of which were delivered to many countries in the world, including England, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Cuba and, of course, all over Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver,” added Trulsen

“You have a lot of courage, a huge heart and you’ve lot of guts for doing it,” added Harper.

Alternatives for Women can be reached at alternativesforwomen.org or by calling 613-476-4435. The crisis line is 613-476-2787.

 

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  1. Bruce says:

    Way to go Ladies ! I applaud your efforts and courage

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