|Photo credit: Dustin Delfs – Laughing Dog Photography
Hope. It may be a simple four-letter word, but for women and children in Northern Alberta who are victims of family violence, it could mean the difference between life and death.
Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge has been a strong supporter of Hope Haven Women’s Shelter in Lac La Biche, Alberta for the past 12 years and was recognized for his fundraising and awareness efforts on Thursday afternoon at the 2014 Alberta Inspiration Awards.
“I nominated Patrick to recognize the work he’s done with the shelter in Lac La Biche, and not only our shelter, but the family violence community at large in Alberta,” said Cassandra Putnam, Executive Director, Hope Haven. “He’s just shown incredible leadership. His work has really brought the level of awareness in our community and the province to such a higher level.”
In addition to providing hope, the shelter offers support, resources, accommodations and counselling for women and their families in abusive situations. Temporary housing is available for those who need a safe place to stay along with educational opportunities, children’s programming and a healing circle that is open to all members of the community.
“When I see my friends or family that are in a situation that I was in before, this is the first place that I recommend for them to come and check out the programs that they offer because it saved my life,” said Chantal, mother of two and past Hope Haven resident. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t come here.”
Growing up in Lac La Biche, LaForge understands the issues that many families in the area face. After attending a charity golf tournament for Hope Haven in 2003, he and his wife were invited back to the shelter to tour the facility and see first-hand the work being done to save lives in the community.
“Until you actually enter a shelter, it’s like a lot of things in life, you just don’t understand,” said LaForge. “You could see that it affected the whole community. It wasn’t one ethnic group, it wasn’t one age group, everybody was tied to this.
“We talked to the staff and couldn’t get over their enthusiasm, all while trying do things with no money. But their dream of trying to provide a solution, a safe place for people who are victims of family violence was just so commendable. We were struck by it.”
Through his leadership, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation has provided annual donations to the shelter, as have individuals and businesses that have been influenced by his passion to prevent family violence. He attends the annual Edmonton Breakfast with the Guys event hosted by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and has been featured as a guest speaker. In 2012, he also took on the role of Chair of Hope Haven’s Charity Golf Committee.
“I wanted to do something good for my hometown,” said LaForge. “It wasn’t my idea to just raise a few bucks and then leave town. My idea was to raise some money, look for solutions, find ways to actually make a difference. I wanted to find out what it was that was actually missing and then just work on it until we got it to a place where you knew it had transformed from where it was to a better state.”
Through his advocacy, fundraising endeavours and strategic guidance, LaForge has indeed helped transform the shelter. A new facility was built in 2004, located closer to the emergency ward of the hospital, and includes safety features such as steel doors and security cameras to ensure a safe environment for the victims of violence accessing the facility. Beyond the shelter, an outreach program was established where Hope Haven employees visit a number of schools per year and talk to children about the indicators and resources available to them when dealing with family violence. The shelter has also made strong connections with the local college, providing opportunities for victims to attend school while bettering their lives at Hope Haven.
“He helped us achieve some really big dreams, building a new shelter and then helping us double the size and building a second stage and programming areas,” said Putnam. “Patrick’s generosity has changed many lives and I can’t think of a more deserving individual to be recognized for his leadership in the prevention of family violence with a 2014 Alberta Inspiration Award.”
While LaForge was quick to defer the distinction to Putnam and Hope Haven, the Executive Director noted that without his contributions, there would be a lot less hope in Lac La Biche.