Curated by Takyrah Anderson
My name is Jess Lowe and I am the Supervisor of Empowerment Programs at Milton Community Resource Centre (MCRC). MCRC’s Empowerment Programs are designed to overcome barriers and meet the unique needs of families, girls, and women. These services are free of charge, accessible and reach some of the most disenfranchised and marginalized members of our community. These programs include She Can! Girls’ empowerment programs, Infant Food Bank, and Period Power Initiative.
The She Can! programs are girl-centered, designed to empower and uplift girls in our community. These programs will foster strength, leadership, and resilience through hands-on activities and thought-provoking discussions. She Can! facilitators design the activities alongside the girls, ensuring that they are age-appropriate and that they meet the needs and interests of each specific group.
“When I was growing up, I could have really benefited from every program that She Can! offers. All of the different target points of each program like being a leader, coping skills, having a voice, and making choices would have made a big difference in my life,”
MCRC’s Infant Food Bank is dedicated to helping local families in need by providing a monthly supply of diapers, formula, baby food and cereal. The Infant Food Bank also offers these families referrals to EarlyON programs, supports, services and other community agencies.
The Period Power Initiative is dedicated to promoting equity by ensuring access to menstrual products for those in our local community who are experiencing financial challenges.
What have you most loved and appreciated about the community project/initiative that you are involved in?
The special part of these programs is that you can see the impact that we make. In She Can!, we have the opportunity to watch the participants come out of their shells, learn new skills, and get to know their personalities. Our amazing She Can! facilitators have the opportunity to talk about different topics that the participants do not necessarily learn about elsewhere. For example, coping skills, dealing with stress, having empathy for others, and being a leader.
In the Infant Food Bank, families in need come to us, and we are able to provide essential items to help alleviate the monthly cost of having a baby. The amount of gratitude we see in families is heartwarming and affirms the importance of what we are doing. When meeting these families, we also have the opportunity to connect them with other supports, services and resources for the whole family in Halton.
“Anything helps; monetary or donated diapers size 2 – 6, baby food, baby cereal and formula. Community members can donate at our 410 Bronte St. S location or online at mcrc.on.ca.”
MCRC’s Empowerment Programs are special and important services to the Halton community. The programs are so rewarding and seeing the difference we can make is something that all of us treasure.
What is your connection to the project/initiative, and why is it so important to you?
I started off as a She Can! Facilitator and later moved into the role of Supervisor of Empowerment Programs. When I was growing up, I could have really benefited from every program that She Can! offers. All of the different target points of each program like being a leader, coping skills, having a voice, and making choices would have made a big difference in my life. When speaking with Child and Youth Counsellors in the schools that we support as well as the parents/caregivers of She Can! participants, many of them say the same.
Once I became the supervisor, I was able to learn more about the Infant Food Bank. Raising children is expensive, and with the rising costs of inflation putting further strain on families’ budgets, there are more families than ever that are experiencing food insecurity and poverty. It is very important to me that we can help the youngest population of our community and help take some of the stress away from their parents, by providing infant supplies to vulnerable families.
What is happening through the project/initiative that you would like to see more of?
She Can! programs have seen such success since we started in 2020, and since then we have had almost 2000 girls participate. This year, we expanded to reach a younger age group and developed new programs around sports and science to meet the growing needs and demands. We are very happy to be able to do this and I would love to see She Can! Programs continue to expand. We are working hard to continue to develop more unique programs that meet the needs of our participants and address the challenges that young girls face in our society.
The Infant Food Bank is proud to serve families in need, we rely heavily on donations from the many generous people and donors in the community. With increasing financial pressures, more people are in need of support, so we are always looking for new ways to increase donations so that we can continue to meet the demand.
“Infant Food Bank is working to expand to Acton to support more families in need,”
She Can! Programs are also offered in schools during lunch breaks and currently have a waitlist. We rely on grants and fundraising to be able to offer these programs in schools, and we would love to be able to go to more schools at a time, making our impact even larger. It would be great to be able to offer more programs throughout the week as well as across all parts of Halton.
Infant Food Bank is working to expand to Acton to support more families in need in areas that are often underserved. We have developed a partnership with the Halton Hills Library to have space to deliver infant supplies to families in need in Halton Hills. I look forward to opening this service in Acton in the coming months.
What would you want or need from the community to make your next steps successful?
She Can! Programs are free and as such, rely on grants and fundraising to run. Without funding we have to limit the number of programs we can offer and struggle to meet the growing demand. Monetary donations help She Can! continue to run without cost for participants and are extremely helpful in allowing us to offer additional programs. We are also always looking for partnerships with individuals to run workshops or programs for free, which is always a benefit for She Can!. Partnerships are special because they allow She Can! to expand our focus into other realms to empower girls, giving them the opportunity to be interested and learn about different topics.
The Infant Food Bank relies on donations from the community to aid us in supplying families in need with their infant necessities. In this economy, the need is higher than ever for donations. Anything helps; monetary donations allow us to purchase high demand products and donations such as diapers size 2 – 6, baby food, baby cereal and formula are greatly appreciated. Community members can donate at our 410 Bronte St. S location or online at mcrc.on.ca.
If all those good things happened, what could be made possible in our community that wasn’t possible before?
For She Can!, we would have the opportunity to open newer programs and workshops for the participants to learn about more topics. We would be able to serve a larger number of schools at once, which would significantly increase the impact. We strive to have an impact on every participant who enters a She Can! program. When asked what the participants have learned in, some responses are: “that confidence is key and women can be empowered too”, and “I learned it’s ok to not be ok and I can do anything.” Participants identify that they feel more confident after the program and that they have learned new strategies to deal with negative emotions and stress. This is critical as studies show, increasing confidence in young girls can improve academic outcomes, increase physical activity, strengthen their voice to speak out against injustice, increase confidence in exploring career options, and increase long-term earning potential allowing these girls to reach their full potential. MCRC recognizes that success in our community would mean that the Infant Food Bank would not exist. We will always be here to support children and support families in whatever way we can. With increases in donations, MCRC will be able to ensure we can provide each family with 80 – 100% of their monthly needs. We can also ensure we are available to support more families and become more accessible to those who need our support without geographical barriers. It is our hope that every family can thrive and that families are connected to the supports and resources that will help them do so.
The She Can! participants worked together to strategize ways of being empathetic. We focused on empathy because we wanted the participants to learn how to understand others and respect other people’s feelings.
You can learn more about MCRC’s Empowerment Programs including She Can and the Infant Food Bank at: She Can! – MCRC
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