My name is Olivia.
Ever since I was a child, Caldwell Family Centre has been like my second home. It’s been a place I felt safe, supported, and above all, a space where I always felt welcome.
My mother moved to Ottawa from St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1979 to live with her sister. She was leaving an abusive family situation. I was born a few months later. In 1982, we moved to the Caldwell neighbourhood when I was two years old.
When she arrived at Caldwell Family Centre, she was welcomed into the community. She met Helen, a warm, kind, and jovial woman who worked at the Centre. In fact, Helen only retired from the Family Centre in January this year, at the age of 82!
I remember those early days when we had to rely on receiving food and support from Caldwell Family Centre. Back then, the Centre was a small home in the middle of a row of townhouses. It was a family environment where my mom would attend community programming and volunteer with the other parents.
When my mom volunteered at Caldwell Family Centre, all us kids would play outside, laughing and probably distracting the adults, until inevitably, they would give us helpful jobs like distributing flyers or tidying up.
So, when I needed support for myself and my three boys after I left my abusive partner, I knew the Family Centre would help – just as they’d helped my mother all those years ago.
It was thanks to your support that this was possible. Generous donations like yours helped ensure the Family Centre was there when we needed help. By donating today, you will ensure that Caldwell Family Centre will be there for other families that find themselves in need.
When I grew up, I moved away from the Caldwell neighbourhood to downtown Ottawa. After living downtown for several years with my three sons, I had to make a difficult decision.
Our apartment wasn’t fit for my boys, my landlord was truly awful, and I needed to get away from my abusive partner. I am thankful that my mother agreed to take care of my boys, so I could leave that terrible apartment and relationship.
I had to forfeit my apartment and I became homeless.
I remember walking into the Drop-In Program at the Family Centre for a meal and seeing Helen again. I nearly wept. It was so good to know I could come back after all these years and see people I trusted in a community that supported me when I was young.
That’s what Caldwell Family Centre is, above all else; it’s a place where every service you could want is all in one place. When I lived downtown, the services were spread out and difficult to get to. At Caldwell Family Centre, when I needed food and a chat, it was all within one organization.
I soon found a new place to live. We found a townhouse in the same neighbourhood I grew up in on Caldwell Ave.
I barely had $10 to my name, but I desperately needed blankets, socks, dishes and a pair of shoes (as my only pair were broken when I moved).
The volunteers at the Clothing Depot helped me find what I needed. I worried it would cost more than the $10 I had. But when it came time to pay, they said to not worry and to keep my money. They hoped I had what I needed and that I was welcome back any time.
That time I did cry. In fact, I bawled.
Their generosity changed my life.
I don’t know where my family and I would be without the Family Centre. Over the last year, I have suffered from a deep depression, but even when I was feeling low, I knew there was someone who I could have a friendly chat with at Caldwell Family Centre.
I knew the Clothing Depot, Drop-In, and Food Bank were open to me. I knew I wasn’t alone. To help give back, I now volunteer at the Family Centre as I know how tough it can be for families, especially during these times of high prices.
By making a donation today, Caldwell Family Centre can continue to support the more than 5,400 people, who just like me, need support for themselves and their families. Babies, kids, seniors, and people who are unhoused – everyone has a place at the Family Centre. But Caldwell Family Centre can only continue these vital programs with your support.
Thank you so much for reading my story and please know, your generosity will change so many lives.