Resource centre celebrating women with online event

·4 min read

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are feeling isolated than ever. But the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre is seeking to connect people and bring them together virtually.

“I’m a firm believer that you have to be agile, you have to move quickly to get something out there to help people,” says Tammi Belfer, the president of the centre’s board of directors.

After the pandemic forced most services to close last March, Belfer and the rest of the team immediately moved to virtual programming through Zoom. She says they’re now able to reach more people who would struggle to physically visit the office.

The centre’s biggest fundraiser of the year coincides annually with International Women’s Day. This year, it’s taking place on Saturday and has been modified to fit a virtual setting.

“This year is quite unique,” explains Megan Chambers, who’s currently a volunteer member of the centre’s governance committee and in the process of being appointed to the board.

For the event’s 25th anniversary, some things will remain the same: Richmond video reporter Thor Diakow will act as the master of ceremonies, and attendees will listen to a keynote address from the founders of Boss Lady Collective, a Vancouver-based group that helps female entrepreneurs.

But some elements will change to fit the new format, including door prizes and trivia to increase interactivity. The goal is to reach 120 attendees, which is about half the number who would attend the usual in-person event. An online silent auction is aiming to raise $10,000, with donated items ranging from $10 to $600 in value.

“I’m hoping we can blow this out of the water for the centre this year,” says Chambers. “I’m really so blessed to be able to work with (the centre), and I want to see it succeed as much as possible.

Longtime community supporter and former MLA Linda Reid—who Belfer notes has been a help to the centre for many years—will receive the first annual achievement award.

Following a challenging year, the centre is hoping to continue to grow. It has three major pillars in its strategic plan: building community and partnerships; learning and training; and working to enhance the support groups it runs.

“Our specific goal right now is to build awareness and build strategies on how to do that, and make sure we’re staying current and relevant,” says Belfer.

The centre’s support group for moms often has kids in attendance, since people are tuning in from home. And the grandmothers support group meets via telephone. While most women who use the centre’s services are between the ages of 35 and 60, Belfer says she’s also noticed more young women starting to use the services offered by the centre, “and that’s the future.”

The job ready program teaches skills like resumé writing and gives women a chance to interact in small groups. There’s also an English language program where people learn language skills and converse.

Despite the lower traffic during the pandemic, thousands of women are still seeking support from the centre—more than 3,500 participated in its programs, and nearly 900 were drop-in visitors. Belfer hopes to be able to open the doors to more drop-in visitors soon, as the centre is currently closed to the public.

“The level of need is growing more, and people are getting stressed. I feel a higher stress level happening,” she says. “I think we need to be there more than anything, and we need to do fun and educational things.

“People are connecting, we just need to encourage them—we need to tell them about it. I think the women’s resource centre has been the best-kept secret in Richmond since 1976. We’re here, and we’re here for a long time.”

The virtual International Women’s Day event is taking place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday (March 6), and people can register for free online.

You can also support the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre through its online auction here, using the room code IWD2021.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel