At a Bradford West Gwillimbury council meeting Aug. 15, Liz Moore from the Women’s Institute (WI) made a presentation informing the community of the services the group provides.
Mayor James Leduc welcomed the presentation and was appreciative of the information presented.
“It was an absolute great learning exercise … (about) the impact you are making in our community,” he said.
The WI in the local community has two chapters: Bond Head and Tec-We-Gwill. The Bond Head chapter meets at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, while the Tec-We-Gwill chapter meets at the Newton Robinson Hall. Both chapters work in tandem to support the local community.
“We are part of a provincial connection, a federal connection and an international connection. Through our international organization, we have a voice at the (United Nations) for things like food security, rural issues — things that really matter in communities,” said Moore.
“This transcends down to the local community in terms of lobbying for change and activism we do in our community.”
The WI was co-founded in 1897 by Adelaide Hoodless, who was motivated to inspire change following the death of her son, which resulted from him consuming contaminated milk. According to the WI website, Hoodless felt her mission was “to organize and educate women and mothers around the world about food safety and ensure every woman was trained in home care and domestic science.”
In those days, isolation was a real problem as it was difficult for women in rural communities to connect. Moore sees a similarity today, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, with isolation and loneliness being growing problems. She feels one of the main roles of the WI is to address social well-being and help women feel like they are part of a community.
Every second Thursday from September until June, the WI puts on a community lunch with a full-course meal with dessert for $15 at the Newton Robinson Hall. These events are for everyone of all ages, and they provide a way to get to meet people in the community.
The WI puts on talent shows twice a year for an evening of fun. It also sponsors the South Simcoe Arts Council Music Festival, which provides the organization an opportunity to recruit performers for its talent shows. The WI recently provided a children’s entertainment show, which was well attended.
With regard to food security, the WI is planning a canning workshop to show people how to preserve food in the plentiful months to be used in the more challenging winter months.
“We are in discussion with the Town of Bradford (west Gwillimbury) to have community gardens available in Bradford. We are in the early stages, but we are very optimistic we’ll get there,” said Moore.
Advocacy is important to the WI. The South Simcoe Police Service has been brought in for information sessions to help inform people, especially seniors, about the wide use of scams and deceptive practices to take advantage of people.
“They are becoming so sophisticated now and it’s unfortunate that talent isn’t put back into the community,” said Moore.
Maintaining a positive state of mind is a goal of the WI. It plans to provide a variety of group activities to promote this positive mental state. One of those activities is what Moore calls “forest bathing.” This is a group activity of walking in the forest and feeling nature. Other activities include providing journalling workshops to show the benefit of putting one’s thoughts on paper and the therapeutic effects that can have.
The WI is also seeking partnerships with local health units to help women with postpartum depression, breastfeeding issues, and other struggles associated with raising young children.
Moore wants to bring more awareness to what she calls a “silent epidemic” of pregnancy and infant loss. She participates every Oct. 15 in Wave of Light, a global ceremony that recognizes and honours those who experienced loss due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome or infant loss.
Moore attributes the success of the WI to its ability to listen to the current issues within the community and alter its activities to adjust to these needs.
“We don’t just do what we have always done; we are always looking and listening to what needs to be done. That’s the value of what we do,” she said.
There has been some debate at council meetings about how the Newton Robinson Hall is being used in the community and the arrangement that was made with the WI. Recently, the town and the WI agreed to 52 events at an annual rate of $275. These events include workshops, talent shows, lunches, and monthly meetings.
Moore is appreciative of the support the town provides the WI, but she also stresses the WI gives a lot back to the community, so this is a good investment.
“We gave thousands of dollars back … Food security, mental health and well-being are very important. It is a great working relationship and we are looking forward to a more favourable future,” she said.
The Newton Robinson Hall is located in Coun. Peter Ferragine’s Ward 5, and this has allowed him to interact with Moore and develop a positive relationship with the WI.
“Liz and the Women’s Institute have shown the municipality all of the wonderful workshops, meetings and social lunches they have been offering,” he said. “BWG staff are thrilled with their accomplishments and offerings as it would be difficult for them to offer the same programming on top of what BWG currently offers. It is volunteer groups like this that make a community feel welcoming and inclusive.”
Those who want to learn more about the WI can contact Moore at 905-775-8941.