Helping homeless women in the nation’s capital

Marcia Adams-Aston believes that those who have should help those who have not.

“Then everybody wins,” says Adams-Aston, who came to Carleton University in 1995 and has worked in Admission Services since 2001.

Adams-Aston has found her volunteering niche with a community organization dedicated to improving the lives of women who are homeless. Cornerstone runs programs at three residences to provide a safe and affordable place to live for some 500 of the estimated 1,500 women who become homeless every year in Ottawa.

Adams-Aston first learned of Cornerstone’s needs in 2004 when the organization’s director, Sue Garvey, spoke to her church group.

“I started collecting clothing for the women who come to the shelter with basically the clothes they were wearing.”

Within a few years, Adams-Aston was fundraising at Carleton to further support the programs and initiatives of Cornerstone. Members of the university community were invited to purchase a Raise the Roof toque in exchange for a $10 donation.

“We sold more toques than any other organization in Ottawa,” she recalls proudly. In 2006 and 2007, she raised more than $5,600 for the cause.

As the Cornerstone co-ordinator for her church, Adams-Aston has also more recently become involved in a meal-preparation initiative, which includes home-baked goods, for residents of one of the Cornerstone communities.

“We decided we would do one meal a month. I put together a committee of about 25 people and worked out a rotation schedule. We decide on the menu together, then one person does the shopping, three people prepare the meal and another three deliver and serve it to the residents.”

The monthly meal plan started in July 2008 and is still going strong.

“It has been very enlightening for all of us to go into the residence and speak to the people and serve them,” she says.

“The first time we went to serve lunch, I’ll never forget. We took ice cream and two of the residents started skipping around the room. It’s the simplest things. It’s nice to give them a bit of humanity, which they have lost.”

Adams-Aston is thrilled to see how her fundraising efforts are improving the services Cornerstone offers. A campaign she started last spring raised more than $3,700 in five months, with the funds going toward a fourth building the organization plans to open for senior women and emergency referrals. Another campaign is in the works for this March.

“Volunteers often say they get back more than they give,” says Adams-Aston. “This is something I can do to make a difference in these women’s lives. I feel privileged.”

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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