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This month we have a guest post by one of our volunteers, Bernadette Gerrish.  Bea has written about her experience helping out with Redwood Park Communities. I am a volunteer for Redwood Park Communities and I also donate my time to The Salvation Army at the local Bayside Mission. I’m often asked why I choose to volunteer and my reasons are multi-faceted.
In October 2015, my husband and I relocated to Barrie from Toronto. The lure of lower cost of living as well as a drastically shortened daily commute for my husband brought us here. There is also closer proximity to locations designated for outdoor activities and the scenery is breathtaking. My husband and I feel embraced by the warmth and friendliness of those who live in Barrie. This little city has lovely small town sensibilities which are absent in Toronto. People actually smile at strangers and say hello here!  I decided that I wanted to utilize my free time in a positive manner in order to benefit the community. A friend told me about Redwood Park Communities and their commitment to providing affordable housing for women in dangerous situations. As soon as I heard about this grassroots initiative, I knew that I had to be a part of this organization. I’m a woman who has experienced the despair of poverty and stereotyping due to low income. Those difficult years gave me perspective on the issues which plague the less fortunate. I felt that working to help marginalized populations would help me to remain grateful; we can all relate to taking so many blessings for granted such as food, shelter and clothing.
Since I didn’t know any of the ladies who founded Redwood Park Communities, I was apprehensive about meeting them for the first time. I noticed that all of them were very welcoming and inclusive. We shared many laughs and our life stories. I look forward to seeing these strong and caring women every time I help prepare an apartment for a new tenant. The living spaces are beautiful. There are laminate floors, big, bright windows, and custom art on the walls. A converted century home has been a boon for many families in need of transitional housing. I found this very admirable because I saw many subsidized units in Toronto which were in desperate need of repairs and cleaning. There is a pervasive unethical belief that those who rely on community housing supports are undeserving of decent residences. Redwood Park Communities gives their clients the opportunity to enjoy aesthetically pleasing households. The founders of Redwood Park Communities like to say that if they wouldn’t live in a certain apartment; they would not expect anyone else to reside in the same unsuitable conditions.  Volunteering at Redwood Park Communities has been a worthwhile endeavour which has led to forming great connections. I am proud to lend a hand to a vital housing coalition which continues to change lives.