Meet Sheena
October 21, 2021
Meet Elizabeth
June 18, 2021

Meet Christine

“I’m leaving a gift in my will so my support for women experiencing homelessness can continue after I pass.”

As a long-time friend and supporter to Cornerstone, I want to share this simple note with you.
I am a supporter of Cornerstone Housing for Women because I believe it is genuinely the right thing to do. But before I get to that, I want to share a little about my life with you, and how I decided to support women moving from crisis to homes of healing.

I was the oldest of four kids. I was born across the sea in England — Manchester, to be exact.

As a child, I lived in a horrible house that was full of fighting and tension. When I was nine years old, my mother left us — my brothers and myself. She went to visit family in Egypt and never returned.

At the time, my three brothers were quite young, seven, five years old and eighteen months old. My father became a single parent, which was unheard of back in that time. He was sometimes not physically well and struggled with the everyday situation. The Salvation Army took us away for a while, as it was a terrible situation.

From that moment, we relied on the kindness of strangers to survive.

I became the mother of the house at eleven years old. To stay together as a family, we needed to pull together and work as a team. The neighbours were so kind. They brought us pies and meals and clothing. They regularly checked in on us.

My father, Dennis, did his absolute best. He was incredibly brave and did his utmost to provide for us and keep us safe. That is where I learned compassion and courage. From those early times, I learned that we need each other; each person in a community is essential. We all have value.
As my story continues, I decided to emigrate to Canada.

I remember so clearly how it was when I arrived in Canada 50 years ago. It was the spring of 1969, and it was snowing! This country gave me a new life. I am so grateful. Canada, at that time, really felt like a new land, full of possibility.

I settled in Ottawa. I became a businesswoman, after realizing I had a head for business November 1, 2021 and a knack for beauty. I opened up a spa in downtown Ottawa on Dalhousie St. It was called Chris’ Beauty Institute.

When I look back at my life, I feel like I have been incredibly lucky. What a time that was! My siblings also did well. But our lives were not without tragedy.

Teddy, my brother, was always such an example for me of kindness and compassion. He taught me how to be generous. He started working in India and established a humanitarian mission there. Teddy fell ill suddenly while he was helping others, and passed away in hospital. It was a devastating blow to myself and my family.

However, he inspired me to serve. Wilda Phillips, Cornerstone’s outgoing former Board Chair, reminded me of him. She cared deeply about vulnerable people in her community, especially women with few chances and opportunities. I met Wilda while I was volunteering and she told me about Cornerstone Housing for Women.

It struck me how its mission grew from simple beginnings; it started with three cots in a church basement. A small group of people stood up and did what was right for women that had no safe place to go. I grew up in constant crisis, and I identify with the importance of Cornerstone’s work. I understood what it meant not to feel safe and secure in my home.

When I arrived in Ottawa, it had a population of 225,000. Recently, the Mayor just announced we had surpassed one million residents. How things change! But with growth, also comes challenge and big city problems.

In Ottawa this year alone, 1,000 women will find themselves homeless. Cornerstone is there for almost half, offering emergency shelter and four supportive housing communities, serving more than two hundred women each day.

I am proud to have donated to help open the doors of Cornerstone’s newest housing community, Princeton Avenue. It is full of light, and hope and forty-two women now have a place to call home. Many women were homeless for well over six months before they could find housing. It meant so much to me that I could dedicate my gift at Princeton to my brother, Teddy’s memory. It would have been a legacy he cared for.

I am glad I get to play a small part in making things better for women that have lived through trauma, abuse and unimaginable experiences. It feels good knowing that my tribute will help at-risk women for years to come, and has made a lasting difference to my community.

I recently visited their emergency shelter, and it is an essential but challenging place to be. Imagine showing up to live in an unfamiliar place with just the clothes on your back, a garbage bag or a backpack. It is an experience of little privacy, incredible loneliness, but there is kindness. I could tell the staff cared deeply.

We met one woman, Celine, a new Canadian that was about to leave the shelter. She had finally found a place after working with the housing case manager for close to eight months. I know we need to build a new emergency shelter one day. But to do that, we will need a groundswell of support from the community. This past year Cornerstone’s shelter doubled the number of women – one hundred and seven women sleep there every night, but many need to be turned away as they are full each night.

We need our friends and neighbours to spread the word and advocate for more housing and shelter for women in our city.

Plus, some women stay in emergency shelter for years, waiting for a safe, secure, supportive place that helps them with their unique needs.

Currently, in Ottawa, there are over 12,000 individuals and families waiting for affordable housing. We have a crisis in our city.The reality of COVID-19 impacted the lives of many vulnerable women, especially women experiencing homelessness. At Cornerstone Housing for Women, they have been working tirelessly to ensure the safety of residents, staff and community from the spread of the virus.

It was an incredibly difficult and unprecedented situation for everyone but staff at Cornerstone showed up each day to serve vulnerable women that are currently experiencing homelessness in the Women’s Emergency Shelter downtown. They support women recovering from crisis, who are starting a new chapter of their lives in four supportive housing communities, and outreach program.

That is why I have decided to leave my gift in my Will to Cornerstone Housing for Women.

I know my gift will help the most vulnerable women, often overlooked and undervalued; women who are living with mental health challenges, disabilities, addictions, who are fleeing violence and abuse. Cornerstone also assists new Canadian women that need a helping hand and women who are the working poor and can’t seem to catch a break. I want to ensure this work continues, long after my time.

I know my bequest can leave a lasting impact on women in our community. I feel confident that Cornerstone can continue its excellent work, as it already has a track record of thirty-six years of transforming women’s lives.
I wanted to share my story with you, with the simple wish that perhaps you would consider making the same choice I did or would like to learn more about making a will.When you are blessed — be a blessing.

I feel proud knowing that my simple action will make ripples of compassion into the future for so many I will never meet.
Together, we can transform our city and safeguard that women can live without harm, with support and build vibrant communities.

Yours sincerely,
Christine Gibbard
Cornerstone Supporter
P.S. Cornerstone in partnership with the Anglican Diocese will be hosting a workshop on leaving a gift in your will in the new year. Please stay tuned for this dateI hope to see you there.

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