The ongoing surge in demand at a Niagara domestic violence shelter prompted a NOTL developer’s family to step in and help the centre expand its services.
Last week at Gillian’s Place, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli announced their $1.5 million donation to the shelter’s new campaign to add more beds and more programs to help those experiencing abuse.
“As community leaders, we should all come together to help and protect those at their most vulnerable point,” Marotta said in an interview with The Lake Report.
The money will go toward the new three-storey, 9,000-square-foot Marotta Family Centre for Violence Prevention and Outreach Support.
The Marotta centre will be an expansion of the current Gillian’s Place facility on Gibson Place in St. Catharines.
The centre is part of a bigger project called the Build a Safer Future campaign.
So far, Gillian’s Place has raised more than $5 million toward its $8 million goal.
The two sisters said the donation to Gillian’s Place has been in the works for more than a year.
“We do what feels right for us as a family and for the community,” said Marotta.
It comes on the heels of a $10-million pledge by the family to the campaign to build the new South Niagara Hospital.
“We’ve achieved many successes in our business endeavours and because of that, we have a responsibility to give back,” said Marotta.
Gillian’s Place is an organization working to end gender-based violence against women, children, Two-Spirit, genderqueer, trans and non-binary people across Niagara.
Last year, the shelter served more than 3,200 people last year, and sheltered 322 adults and children.
However, the facility had to redirect 430 people last year because of capacity limits.
Executive director Nicole Regehr said even before the pandemic, Gillian’s Place was witnessing a yearly rise in the demand for its services – but since then, she said, the situation has gotten worse.
“The prevalence of gender-based violence has increased to drastic and distressing proportions worldwide,” she said.
In the shelter’s last fiscal year, Regehr said they were at or above capacity 46 per cent of the time.
The shelter currently had 34 beds.
“We were forced to direct over 50 per cent of survivors who reached out to us for help to less suitable services,” she said.
The Matotta family donation is the largest Gillian’s Place has ever received in its 45 years of service, said Regehr.
Marotta and Marotta-Paolicelli are the sisters behind the Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their father, Benny Marotta, is a major, often controversial, developer.
Two Sisters Vineyards supports Gillian’s Place annually by donating a portion of its Margo rosé sales.
The sisters hope their donation will encourage others to donate to the shelter.
“Being women and mothers ourselves, they are the most vulnerable, so we’re here to support,” said Marotta.
The $8-million Gillian’s Place campaign will roll out in two phases that will take about a year and a half to complete.
“What started about a year and a half ago as an idea for a small internal renovation to create more space for our programming has grown into quite a bolder vision,” said Regehr.
Renovations inside the shelter will be part of the first phase.
The renovations have already begun and will add more resources, bedrooms, bathrooms, living spaces, a life skills programming room and counselling spaces.
“The areas renovated in phase one are contingent on facility expansion and phase two,” said Regehr.
The second phase will be the construction of the new centre which will add 10 beds.
This will bring the number of beds at Gillian’s Place to 44.
The new centre will provide private and separate bedrooms for all residents, new counselling spaces and expanded areas for services.
It will be home to many of the shelter’s existing programs as well as a new wellness space for its employees, a community meeting room and reception area and new security updates.
There will also be a pet shelter, an outdoor dog run and a prayer and meditation space.
“We are so excited to be able to move forward here and come to a place where we’re able to offer the kind of service that our clients deserve,” said Regehr.
Learn more about the new campaign at Gilliansplace.com/saferfutures.