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‘Our kitchen helps heal’: Bridgewater domestic violence shelter wins kitchen reno contest

At Harbour House, a 15-bed haven for women and children escaping domestic violence in Bridgewater, N.S., the kitchen is more than a room for cooking.

It’s where body and spirit are nourished, laughter erupts, and sadly, tears are shed.

“I think a lot of women and kids come into the shelter and their spirits and their bodies are pretty broken, and our kitchen helps heal that,” said Jennifer Gagnon, the shelter’s executive director.

But in this 160-year-old home that’s been a shelter for more than three decades, the kitchen needed a lot of TLC — especially the countertop. The laminate had seen better days.

Jennifer Gagnon is the executive director of South Shore Transition House Association. (Linked In)

“We did a little internal renovations a couple of years ago and tried to brighten it up that way, but it certainly didn’t shine,” Gagnon said.

So when the chance to win a new countertop appeared on Gagnon’s Facebook feed in late May, she started typing a nomination for Harbour House. The contest was put on by a local company, Stonewrights, as a way to show appreciation to customers for keeping their business afloat during the pandemic.

Of the five community groups in the running, Harbour House had the most votes, hands down, said Martina Groeger, co-owner of Stonewrights.

She’s glad the shelter was the winner because its work is close to her heart. Groeger is a former teacher and the past chair of the Lunenburg County Community Health Board. She said the shelter’s work was vital during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“Part of my concern was what is going to happen to women and children that are actually at home with an abusive partner or parent because we know that exists,” she said.

The old kitchen had tired laminate countertops and electrical outlets in areas that made them less functional. (Martina Groeger)

A couple of days ago, Stonewrights finished sprucing up the large kitchen. Workers installed 66 square feet of shiny granite, a high-end, durable countertop worth $6,000. That gift kick-started a bigger act of charity and transformation.

Stonewrights added a new backsplash. It also paid for a new sink, while a local plumber contributed a new faucet and installation work. An electrician volunteered to move the outlets to create a more functional kitchen.

Groeger has heard the residents want to take care of the finishing touches — painting the room.

“The women and children who are at the house, they especially deserve something that makes them feel good,” she said. “If they feel good, I feel good.”

Gagnon says Stonewrights’s workers minimized disruption at the shelter during the kitchen overhaul. (Martina Groeger)

It’s hoped a donor will come forward with new flooring to replace the checkered vinyl tiles to complete the kitchen makeover. The big reveal is planned later this month.

Gagnon said it’s wonderful to have a new, gorgeous space that reflects the beautiful things that happen inside it.

“It’s pretty absolutely incredible,” she said, her voice trembling a bit. 

“I love when people can really see what can happen when somebody leaves an abusive relationship and they heal,” she said. “Stonewrights saw us and our work, and I’m just so thankful for that.”

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