- By Rick Garrick
The Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation’s Sept. 10 Fundraising Yard Sale and Barbeque was a hit at the Lowerys office supply store parking lot in Thunder Bay.
“The entire community of Thunder Bay was phenomenal in donating business supplies from their offices and various different agencies from all over Thunder Bay supported the event through all of these donations,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, executive director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) and a volunteer with the Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation. “It was very successful. I think we raised about $2,000. I’m waiting on the final figures right now, so 100 per cent of those proceeds will be going back to Indigenous women’s scholarships.”
McGuire-Cyrette says Lowerys has been “great” in supporting ONWA through different ventures and donations.
“So we began to talk with some of the owners about the charity and informing them that the charity is designed to assist women in getting out of poverty through education scholarships,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “As we know, education is a way to get out of poverty and to get yourself into living a healthy lifestyle. So we began an idea of hosting a barbeque and hosting a yard sale and so it kind of expanded from there.”
The Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation also sells Maxine Noel mugs, magnets, coasters and scarves as fundraisers.
“Maxine Noel, at cost, has partnered with ONWA in order to sell these products,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “One-hundred per cent of the proceeds will go back to education scholarships and training opportunities for Indigenous women.”
McGuire-Cyrette says the “very beautiful” Maxine Noel scarf documents and honours Indigenous women.
“So I think it is a beautiful connection on focusing in on Indigenous women’s empowerment and having Indigenous women lead in the process,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “And showcasing her artwork is in alignment with our mandate and objectives as well.”
The Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation was approved as a federal charity in 2011.
“Over the past few years since our inception, we’ve been focusing in on our mandate and objectives and strategic plan moving forward,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “Most recently we’ve finally began to be able to host fundraising events.”
The Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation was established to support Indigenous women to improve their socio-economic conditions and to assist with legal supports and educational scholarships to foster independence and leadership development at the community level.
“There is no provincial funding for Indigenous women-specific education,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “ONWA only gets the least amount of funding across Canada for education supports through the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy through the Native Women’s Association of Canada.”
McGuire-Cyrette says there is no core funding for the Ontario Native Women’s Charitable Foundation.
“So we really have to begin to start somewhere in fundraising efforts,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “We had to create sound structure and governance. Because it is a volunteer-based agency, we are relying on volunteers in order to move our agency forward.”
McGuire-Cyrette says ONWA plans to host penny auctions at the upcoming Annual General Assembly from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
“As well, we are hosting a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Powwow on Oct. 2 to honour our women,” McGuire-Cyrette says, noting the powwow will be held on Mt. McKay. “At the same time we are also going to be selling Maxine’s work there as well in order to fundraise. We are looking at another barbeque during the powwow, with all proceeds going back into the community.”