Women’s group showing support for assault victim

By Bryn Hadubiak
June 9, 2014 - 4:43pm

A local women’s group is helping people send cards and well-wishes to Marlene Bird, the victim of a violent assault who was found by Prince Albert police June 1 near the Margo Fournier Center.

The YWCA, with the help of the Salvation Army, is supplying cards for people to send to Bird in her hospital room in Edmonton.

“If we can send four or five dozen to her every week, hopefully that will lift her spirits and help her to get stronger, knowing there’s community support behind her,” said Edna Bruce, the manager of the YWCA’s Our House shelter on 15th Avenue East in Prince Albert.

“Some people sign their names, some put a note or money in,” said Bruce. “Just something to let her know she’s valued to us and we’re hoping for her.”

Bird would come in occasionally for general services at the shelter – showers, clothing, phone use and laundry, and the staff got to know her well.

“She liked to joke; she was a happy person – she smiled a lot,” said Bruce. “In here she was like family. She didn’t cause any trouble with us, (and) she has a lot of friends.”

When the news came that Bird was assaulted and how serious her condition was, members and workers of the shelter were shocked.

“We were sickened, (we) absolutely could not believe this could happen to somebody that’s been quite a fixture with us,” explained Bruce.

“It just … it was devastating. The people coming in and the rumours going around – you just didn’t know what to believe what was happening. It was very upsetting for everybody.”

“It was horrific,” agreed Donna Brooks, chief executive officer for Prince Albert’s YWCA.

“It’s beyond imagination that another person, that a human could do that to another human being,” she said.

Brooks was at the national YWCA meeting in Hamilton during the march that took place on June 6, and wondered what they could do. She asked the room filled with representatives of the YWCA from all over the world to stand in a moment of solidarity for Bird and to end violence against women.

“The executive director of Edmonton asked me: ‘how can we help this family, how can we reach out to them?” said Brooks. “So she got her social workers in Edmonton to contact the hospital, and they were able to reach out to the family and to Marlene.”

People began asking for the address to send cards and notes to Bird, and one lady even knitted a scarf for her, said Brooks.

The trouble with violence, though, is it isn’t always easy to figure out how to stop or prevent it from happening.

“Lots of people ask: what can you do to help,” said Brooks. “One of the biggest things is getting the awareness out there – supporting shelters, volunteering at shelters, standing in solidarity to end violence.”

The march on June 6 organized by Wendy Mirasty deserves credit for ensuring people who know anything about what happened to call the police, she said.

“Call on your politicians to do more in that area in educating, putting in place what needs to be put in place to help end violence against women, because it’s very real and still very out there, as we know in our community.”

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On Twitter: @brynhadubiak

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