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March 4, 2019: Monica Ercolessi Fund Development for Sonshine Community Services       website

Our speaker was introduced by Don Vokey. Monica Ercolessi, a lawyer of Italian descent, is the director of Resources and Development for Sonshine Community Services.

Sonshine is a multiservice charity that provides services for women and children fleeing domestic violence and abuse. It started in 1978 with a program for the working poor at River Park Church. Community counselling was made available for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence and abuse. Courses for anxiety, mental illness, and breaking down barriers developed.

Sonshine now has 40 family day homes providing quality childcare. The Sonshine Centre is a one-year residential shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. This facility has 24 apartments with one and two bedrooms which are safe and secure. The children’s centre specializes in therapeutic care for children who have experienced domestic violence. Sonshine has provided safe homes in the past year for 49 women and 51 children, 1000 plus hours counselling and 300 plus hours of experiential therapy and life skills groups.

Calgary Police Services responded to approximately 19,000 domestic violence calls in 2017. Incidences of domestic violence have been rising since 2005. Many cases go unreported. Often, children witness the violence, and sometimes they are victims. Victims come from all races, and social and economic spheres.

Who comes to the women’s shelter? 82% of women accessing second stage (residential) shelters experience serious financial concern. 58% of women get their main source of income from social assistance. At the time of admission, over 70% of women are in extreme or severe danger of being killed; 2/3 of these have children. 1/3 are indigenous; 1/3 are non-indigenous; and 1/3 are immigrants.

What do they need? Safety/support/community connections for a period of 6 – 12 months. This is the most dangerous time for those impacted by domestic violence and abuse. Sonshine is in a non-disclosed location. It has double doors at the entrance. There are cameras inside and outside. There is a 24/7 staffed security desk. Calgary Police Services is connected, and a 911 call will bring them to the door in two minutes. There is a public address system if there is a breach of security which Calgary West Rotary helped fund.

Counselling for women and children and legal advice are provided. They also have classes for running, yoga, dance, activities to shake out the body trauma.

What about the children exposed to domestic abuse? Unfortunately, domestic violence is intergenerational. The brain development of children is affected by exposure to domestic abuse. Studies show that children exposed to abuse at a young age do not do well. By the time a child gets to kindergarten, age 4, the wiring is set. By age 4, a child’s brain is 90% of the size of the adult brain. The residential shelter provides an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. They have 71 children, 45 are trauma children and 49 children have experienced at least one adverse childhood trauma incident. These children really need to be loved. With that compassionate statement, Monica ended her talk.

Linda Anderson thanked Monica for telling us about the Sonshine Community Services which is not widely known in our city. She then presented Monica with our world-famous Boltman.

  • Monica Ercolessi and Linda Anderson Monica Ercolessi and Linda Anderson

reported by Marie Rickard

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