Every Journey Begins with a Single Step
Grazia Sheppard is the Program Director of Westview Centre4women. She was first introduced to Westview Centre4Women as a participant 14 years ago.
Grazia’s journey to wellness began when she first walked through the doors of Westview Centre4Women. Grazia was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety and has always been a little ‘down and out’. A friend of hers pushed her to try the drop-in centre after she suffered, as she puts it, a “mental health breakdown” following the loss of her job when her “whole world came crashing down”. She spent seven weeks in bed and another five in hospital. Once released, she had no job to go back to and had isolated herself to the point where she was afraid to interact with others again. “I didn’t know what to do anymore. I felt lost and without purpose,” she explained. The loss of her job forced her into poverty, struggling to pay bills and feed herself and her family. Her first experience was “like a hug”, she felt welcome, comfortable and most importantly, safe. It was a place where she could go and feel valued – a place that would provide healing.
Grazia’s experience isn’t unique. For hundreds of women in the Queenston neighbourhood, living in poverty and isolation is all they know.
“I didn’t know what to do anymore. I felt lost and without purpose”
This particular neighbourhood is made up of primarily low-income renters. It is also a food desert and ‘home’ to a number of homeless individuals. For many women, Westview is their only hope, a way out, a place of refuge.
Agencies like Westview are incredibly important in the communities where they are located. Residents rely heavily on the services they provide – whether that be a hot meal, counselling, employment help or companionship – and they wouldn’t be running at the capacity required to support individuals who are struggling without the support of United Way.
“A series of life events, like in Grazia’s case, can make life feel hopeless, but there is hope”
Grazia recently shared her story for a small group of United Way donors, no easy feat for her, she shared. Her words ring true for so many, “United Way investments mean agency’s like Westview can better support people who need it the most.” Grazia has come full circle, and while some days may still be a struggle, she is able to help women just like her overcome their biggest challenges. She regularly interacts with women from all walks of life – mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters – all experiencing poverty and all wanting better for themselves and their families.
“United Way investments mean agency’s like Westview can better support people who need it the most.”
Poverty is complex and a reality for nearly 70,000 individuals in Niagara. A series of life events, like in Grazia’s case, can make life feel hopeless, but there is hope. Better is possible, with your support.