County councillors will Walk A Mile in September

By Cecilia Nasmith

At least half the Northumberland County councillors have made commitments to support this year's 12th annual Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre Walk A Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser in September.

The reason this is an important move were set out in a presentation to county council this week by Cornerstone manager of community engagement Janelle Eisler.

The agency strives to protect women and children from domestic violence in both shelter- and community-based programming, Eisler said.

In the Cobourg shelter, there are 21 beds and transitional-housing support, as well as a 24-hour crisis line that received more than 1,300 calls last year.

The shelter operates at 117% capacity, she added.

“We are full every day of the year, and are often turning women and children away – last year, over 100 women and 24 children – for lack of space and funding.”

They did accommodate 69 women and 47 children at the shelter, she added.

As for their community-based services, more than 250 women received counselling, and counsellors drove more than 7,000 km. to deliver it in cases where women were in remote rural areas.

Proactive programming in the schools reaches more than 1,000 students in Grade 5 to 8. And in partnership with the Cobourg Police Service, they offer Stand Up Stay Strong programming in high schools to encourage health relationships.

They are developing their housing-support services, and a promising new option is the Home Share program that matches up homeowners who have spare living space with those who need affordable housing. It's a painstaking process that has, so far, resulted in three very successful matches (with possibly two more in the works).

Their new Thrive Hub program brings experts together every Monday morning to offer their services on a drop-in basis, help with everything from crisis counselling to family-court and legal support.

The majority of their funding comes from the provincial government, and they also depend on support from the county as well as grants, fundraising and donations.

Which includes the 12th annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser, adapted in 2007 from an idea that began in the US six years earlier. It simply involves having men put on red high heels and literally walking a mile (with pledges gathered, of course, in support of Cornerstone).

Last year, they got more than 125 participants. It has now grown to include all members of the community, Eisler said, so they get women, children and dogs as well – and last year they all brought in more than $40,000, making Walk A Mile one of their biggest fundraisers.

Cobourg Mayor John Henderson, Brighton Mayor Brian Ostrander and Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson have committed to participate this year, Eisler stated.

And they have their choice of two venues in which to support the cause – the Sept. 28 walk in downtown Cobourg at 11 a.m. as part of the Harvest Festival and – new this year – in Brighton Sept. 29 as part of their Applefest celebrations.

“It's a whole weekend of Walk A Mile, and we would love to see every councillor participate,” she said.

For those who don't feel equal to walking in heels, she added, red running shoes (or virtually any comfortable footwear decorated in red) are acceptable.

“Don't ask me how I know this – but if you do want red heels, there's a drag-queen shop in Toronto that sells men's sizes,” Ostrander said.

“We have shoes to rent out up to size 16,” Eisler said.

Hamilton Township Councillor Bill Cane declared he could hold out no longer. He had thought his size 12 feet would provide him an out, but apparently that is note the case.

“I'll see you there,” Cane said.

“I will need size 15,” Warden John Logel warned.