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Dec. 6, 2021 | Monday
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Winery staff take a walk to fight domestic violence
Two Sisters Winery co-proprietor Angela Marotta leads the vineyards staff on a mile-long walk to support Gillian’s Place, a non-profit organization that provides safe housing and legal counsel for women and children escaping domestic abuse. (Evan Saunders)

As a single mother, supporting women escaping abuse holds a special place for Jannine Lavoie.

“It’s really important and helpful. I love being able to give back to the community,” Lavoie said Saturday during a gathering in support of Gillian’s Place, a non-profit organization fighting against domestic violence.

Lavoie is general manager of Two Sisters Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and, on Saturday, she joined staff and friends who walked a mile for Gillian's Place.

Some brought their children out to support the cause. Among the 20 or so marchers was Lavoie’s daughter, Brooke Anderson, who proudly carried a sign that said “No excuse for abuse” and spoke about getting involved with the charity.

“It’s nice to get a chance to be a part of something so important,” Brooke said.

“Especially being a young woman, fighting for other women’s rights and supporting them and their choices is really important.”

Brooke, 17, said it is essential for people her age to get involved.

“I think it’s important to start doing stuff like this at a young age to build your own values, know your people and know how to stand up for yourself in the future,” she said.

John Fuller recently moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Victoria, B.C.

No stranger to charitable causes, Fuller has been looking for ways to get involved with the community and jumped at the opportunity to support Gillian's Place, he said.

“I was with the food bank for a long time and it’s nice to get involved with something that’s very local,” he said.

But Fuller had a more personal reason for attending the walk on Saturday. Two-weeks ago, a friend of his was killed in a car crash.

“She was really involved in (Gillian's Place),” Fuller said.

“One of her mottos was actually that she was going to quit her job and open a women’s shelter herself.”

Fuller said joining the walk had the dual importance of honouring her memory and contributing to a great cause.

He and other friends are currently going through her clothing collection and will be donating items to charity in her spirit, he said.,

One of the most pervasive problems the world over is domestic violence against women and children, said Angela Marotta, co-proprietor of the vineyard.

“Everybody knows someone or has a friend of a friend who's gone through some form of abuse,” Marotta said.

“And the children. It’s all about providing a safe place for children,” she said.

Gillian’s Place has been providing safe havens and programs to aid women, non-binary people and children escape the cycle of violence for more than 40 years. The organization has helped more than 50,000 people escape violence, its website says.

The charity was started in St. Catharines and today it operates a large safe house in the city.

Two Sisters staff is nearly 90 per cent female, Marotta said.

When looking for charitable organizations to support, she said it was important for the company to find one that supported women.

“What better charity than a charity that provides a safe haven for those that have escaped abuse,” she said.

“(Gillian's Place) also provides legal support and legal advice, so people know what their options are and can have counselling.” 

The Gillian’s Walk event has raised $1,173,732 for the organization in the last 15 years. This year, it is trying to raise $120,000 by Oct. 31. About $98,000 had been raised so far.

Donations can be made at gilliansplace.com. You can donate as an individual to the organization or add your funds to the team of your choice.

Donations can be made year-round after the fundraiser ends.

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