By Vicki Melville Bathurst
I met up with The Cridge volunteer moving team at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Instead of the big moving truck and four strong men I had expected, it was Ken in his red Dodge Ram, and John and Donna with their SUV, who waved to me from the loading dock. They tell me they pick up from this store once a month. Sometimes it’s small furniture, but this time large boxes full of bedding or towels, and a box full of children’s hats and gloves was waiting for us. The boxes were all easily transported in the two vehicles. While the paperwork indicated the load came with a large price tag (a tax deduction for the store), the items are priceless to the women and families at The Cridge Transition House for Women, and they are always gratefully received.
The Cridge Transition House for Women and Supportive Transitional Housing are the major benefactors of the moving team’s services. After dropping off the boxes at The Cridge Centre, we drove back out to pick up some bedroom furniture which was being donated by another member of The Cridge family. It was a complete set of bunk beds, dresser drawers and even a matching trunk, so when Irwin joined us with his small truck it was great to have the extra arms and another vehicle to transport the load. A group picture brought out the camaraderie of the four — I could tell they had done this together many times before, and that they enjoyed each other’s’ company.
On our ride to The Cridge Centre I had time to speak with Ken. He and his core group of about six regulars and four vehicles came to The Cridge through Glad Tidings Church and it’s “Serve our City” program. Intended to be a twice a year community event, once Ken had made it to The Cridge Centre, he knew he wanted to do more. Since then, he’s spent the last few years driving his truck and organizing the moving team. Irwin, John and Donna too, all come from Glad Tidings Church, and between volunteering with the church, and helping out The Cridge, their days are always busy. John and Donna also help out with a village in Africa, and Irwin helps with a local Syrian refugee family. All four are retired but choosing to spend their days in service to others.
Recalling my first thoughts of big muscular men, I asked Donna how she had made it on the moving team. She laughed but quickly pointed out her role was often the most important. As The Cridge Transition House offers a much needed shelter for women escaping domestic violence, Donna’s job is often to comfort the women and children while the men move their belongings. These are the moves that bring out the harshness of life and the reality that women are still needing to escape violence in their homes. And sometimes, figuring out the logistics of that kind of a move are overwhelming – making the service this team provides that much more valuable. Donna pointed out that some of the women are so traumatized they at first avoid the male volunteers completely.
And thank goodness for the moving team! After we finally figured out how to assemble the new set of bedroom furniture, there were big hugs and thanks from the young woman at the door. This bedroom was for her daughter who would soon be coming to live with her. It is The Cridge Centre for the Family, their staff and the many volunteers who have together helped this young woman leave an abusive relationship and takes steps towards a violence-free life. With the help of so many she has been moved, set up in a new residence, and is on track in getting her life back together. “Thank goodness,” she whispered to me, “for all the volunteers do. Thank you all so much”. And yes, it’s also likely that this big “thank you” was all the moving team volunteers needed for a morning well spent.