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Tantramar women helping promote peace in our homes

Heather Patterson, left, and Holly Chapman volunteer with Autumn House, an organization that strives to eliminate violence in intimate-partner relationships.
Heather Patterson, left, and Holly Chapman volunteer with Autumn House, an organization that strives to eliminate violence in intimate-partner relationships. - Contributed

Autumn House provides safe, secure shelter for women experiencing abuse

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a monthly series, Cheers for Volunteers, which highlights local volunteers and their organizations.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – This month we recognize Holly Chapman and Heather Patterson for their work with Autumn House, an organization whose goal is to eliminate violence in intimate-partner relationships and to promote peace in homes of the community.

Autumn House provides safe and secure shelter for women experiencing abuse as well as a 24-hour crisis line and support for whatever services they may need.

It also offers counselling services to children who have been exposed to family violence and a group program for men who have used abusive behaviours, to help them learn healthier communication skills.

Although it is located in Amherst, Autumn House serves people in Sackville and Port Elgin as well as in other parts of Nova Scotia. No one is ever turned away.

Holly, a resident of Port Elgin, and Heather, of Sackville, have volunteered at Autumn House for a number of years.

They both serve on the fundraising committee of Autumn House which organizes a variety of events ranging from fashion shows to bake sales.

Their major fundraising function is an annual art auction held in January at the high school in Amherst which requires all sorts of work to stage. There’s an artist database to maintain, postings on websites to advertise the event, as well as myriad tasks for the event itself: setting up the artwork for the auction, running the auction, ensuring successful bidders are matched up with the pieces they have purchased and taking down everything at the end.

Holly and Heather both became volunteers at Autumn House through people they knew who were already involved.

In addition to her work on the fundraising committee, Heather is a board member. Last year, she headed up a committee responsible for building second-stage housing for clients who are ready to leave Autumn House but require extra security to keep them and their children safe. The construction started in December 2017 and was completed by April 2018, in record time by all accounts.

Heather was also a member of the committee which implemented the Cumberland SafePet Program, a partnership between Autumn House, Amherst Veterinary Hospital and the Lillian Albion Animal Shelter. This program assists women who may be delaying their decision to leave an abusive partner because they cannot take their pet to Autumn House. Pets are placed in foster care in the community until they are able to return to their families.

Both Holly and Heather do other volunteer work.

Holly is a board member of PEDVAC (Port Elgin District Voluntary Action Council) and also works with Rural Rides, an organization which provides rides to Tantramar residents for out-of-town medical appointments and grocery shopping. In addition, Holly is a member of the Port Elgin Public Library fundraising committee.

Heather is president of the Tantramar Seniors College and the Sackville Food Bank and co-chair of the Linus Project which makes blankets for children who are experiencing a crisis in their lives. In addition, she’s a member of the Tantramar Association of Grandmothers which supports the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation to help grandmothers in Africa care for children orphaned as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

Why do Holly and Heather volunteer?

In terms of Autumn House, Holly says, “There is a huge need for this service. The fact that you are actually saving people’s lives is important.”

Now that she’s retired, Holly’s volunteer work gives her the opportunity to socialize with others, to meet like-minded people and also to meet people she wouldn’t otherwise know. “Plus, it feels good to give back to the community.”

Heather came from an abusive family so this is a motivator for her work with Autumn House. “And, besides,” she says, “volunteering makes life so much richer. I meet lots of people, learn about issues in our community and it’s fun!”

Holly and Heather, we thank you for the vital work you are doing to provide a safe haven for those at risk.

If you are experiencing abuse in your home, call Autumn House to get the help you need (902-667-1200).

If you would like to support the important work Autumn House is doing in the community, come to the art auction Saturday, Jan. 26, at Amherst Regional High School, 190 Willow St., Amherst. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the auction starts at 7:30 p.m.

There is no obligation to buy. You are welcome to come and look at the wonderful art created by local artists: hooked rugs, silk-screened wall hangings, photographs, pottery, paintings and more. Tickets are $30 and include two beverages (wine or beer), hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and a chance to win a work of art.

Tickets are available through Autumn House (902-667-1344), at 30 Church (902-667-8028) and also from Heather in Sackville (506-536-7789).

If you would like to help out with the art auction (calling all those with strong arms and lots of energy), get in touch with Autumn House (902-667-1344).

Check out our community volunteer database at volunteertantramar.ca. Whether you’re an organization looking for volunteers, someone already involved in volunteering or a new volunteer looking for an opportunity to help out, go into the database and get yourself registered. If you need assistance in registering, drop by the Sackville Commons at 64 Main St., in the old fire hall, Monday to Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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