‘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. 

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MPs heal in-house football team dispute

While the nation battles the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, some parliamentarians have been preoccupied with a crisis of their own – who runs the MPs’ football team. And, though it might be known as the beautiful game, things have turned ugly.

A row has been brewing for months, with long-serving senior Labour MPs taking the drastic action of calling on their colleagues to boycott involvement in running the group in protest at the behaviour of its new Tory chair.

However, a deal has now been brokered for a Tory-Labour power-sharing agreement so harmony can be restored to the dressing room.

It comes after a hotly contested claim emerged that the Conservative MP Karl McCartney effectively mounted a takeover of the all-party parliamentary football club earlier this year when he became chair with the backing of Tory colleagues.

In a bid to kick McCartney into touch, the Labour MPs Clive Betts (a former chair of the group), Ian Murray and Justin Madders emailed Labour colleagues on Monday saying: “Karl McCartney proposed himself Chair and brought a number of Conservative colleagues to support him without any discussion with Labour colleagues.”

They added: “We have been trying to seek compromise with Karl to continue to ensure the collegiate and consensual way we have always operated but he has refused. Ian Murray and Clive Betts have had Zoom conversation with Karl today and he is unwilling to run the group in the all-party cooperative spirit it has always operated. We would ask that no Labour members agree to be an officer until joint agreement is reached.”

However, after the row emerged on Tuesday – first reported by Politico London Playbook – a deal was reached to resolve the disagreement, with Madders due to be appointed co-chair of the group. “In the end, it was a hard-fought 90 minutes but football has been the winner,” Madders joked to the Guardian.

After reaching the compromise, Madders and McCartney released a joint statement on Tuesday saying: “We have an OGM later today when it is expected that Justin Madders will be joining the Group as Co-Chairman (with Karl McCartney) and his election will provide cross-party management of the Group.

“It is expected at the same time that a number of other Labour Members will be joining as Vice-Chairmen, as well as other Members of both Houses. The UKPFC APPG has always been open to all Members, and is inclusive, and can now move forward and concentrate on what it was meant to do: playing more football, as well as raising the profile of the many good causes and charities the team support.”

McCartney denied claims of a takeover, telling the Guardian: “The minutes of the 2020 AGM show I did not propose myself to be chairman at all; in fact I was nominated and seconded by a number of parliamentary colleagues who were present at the meeting in person, and Clive Betts (who was in the chair in person in the room) did not put himself

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