There are women and their children who have had no choice but to flee quietly in the darkness of night.
There’s no time for packing, or in-depth planning.
They have nothing, but in a way, they have the most important thing: freedom from an abusive, toxic relationship.
Led by Denise Sheridan, a group of moms who met in Langley 15 years ago are dedicated to helping these women and their kids.
Sheridan and Denise Lundstrom, Julie Bergen, Lorri Sowerby, Joanne Precious, Christy Yap, Debbie Kruse, and Roxanne Brown crossed paths at the Langley Health Unit after all of them had brand new babies.
A bond quickly formed.
“It was just moms with new babies, learn how to breast feed, take care of your baby,” Bergen explained. “We were all just there and clicked and kept going until the health nurse said, ‘You guys have to go form your own group, now. Other moms are coming in.’”
They exchanged email addresses and stayed connected since then.
Initially the babies were in strollers, which was quite a sight when they were all together getting some exercise.
“We would be like a gang of eight moms walking down the street with all of our strollers,” Bergen said. “People would comment on how great that was, that we were all connected.”
Once the kids grew to toddler age, the moms would have pumpkin patch parties. Now the children are older and don’t join their moms during their monthly get-togethers.
“We still need each other through all of these years, through the elementary school, the teenaged years, the dating years, so I was like, ‘Why not have them over at my house?’ Why not do this where we can support each other once a month?” Bergen said. “So that’s what we do.”
But there is more to this story than moms staying connected for a decade-and-a-half.
“A friend of mine started collecting personal care items for women on the street,” Sheridan explained.
“This was about seven or eight years ago and it just expanded and expanded and expanded. So now, I’ve approached this mommy group for years to start putting things together — shampoo, razors, soap — and these items go out to transition homes, recovery homes, shelters, throughout Delta, Surrey, Langley, Mission, Abbotsford… everywhere.”
After donating for several years to an organization that made baskets and distributed in the Downtown Eastside, the friends who formed Women Helping Women South Delta decided to bring the spirit of giving at Christmas closer to home to Ladner/Delta/Surrey.
In 2010 they put together 52 baskets full of personal care items and in 2015, huge support from friends, family, and the general community helped them deliver over 500 gift bags to many different facilities from Delta all the way out to Abbotsford and Mission.
Sheridan said the recipients receive “big bags” full of personal care items.
“A lot of time when they are going through a stressful time in their lives, especially during the holidays, they forget about themselves,” Sheridan said. “They put all of their energy into taking care of their children, making sure they have a safe place to live, they’re fed, and they often put themselves at the very bottom.”
This year, Women Helping Women South Delta’s goal is to fill 700 bags with personal care items, including pyjamas and jewelry.
Closer to home, the ladies who met in Langley in 2003 collect items from family, friends, and co-workers and give them to Sheridan for distribution.
“They bring it to me and I pass it on,” Sheridan said.
On Dec. 6, the Women Helping Women South Delta group sorted, bagged, and distributed the items.
“Some of these transition homes send a representative and they collect (the bags),” Sheridan said. “Some of them don’t want people to visit or don’t want them in the homes, because it’s a really tough time for these women.”
Brown said donating to this cause is important because of how little the women escaping from an abusive spouse has in their possession when they leave.
“If a woman is in trouble and has to leave a house with her kids, she’s leaving with nothing,” Brown said. “She’s got nothing.”
Bergen noted, “and all of their energy is focused on keeping their children safe and finding a safe place to be, and they forget about themselves. So we want to make sure these women are taken care of.”