Gift brings women in crisis close to Oprah
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 10:48 am
Four women who recently escaped violent relationships received a life-altering gift last week.
When a lady entered the Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River Jan. 21 offering four tickets to see Oprah Winfrey live at the Saddledome in Calgary the following evening, it was a dream come true for women taking shelter in the home.
“Debbie” was among those whose names were drawn, as there were eight ladies staying at the Rowan House and only four tickets. She had been staying at the facility for about two weeks after leaving an abusive relationship.
“What a gift, and to be Oprah of all people,” she said. “There is one word to describe Oprah and it’s powerful. She is just powerful in her words, in her actions and you can just feel her strength in everything she does.”
Debbie said she feels a kinship to Oprah, who also overcame difficult times. She said Oprah constantly had a presence in her life starting when she was a child and attending her show solidified her role in her life.
“The biggest thing that stuck with me was when she spoke so often of her inner voice and how, since she was a little girl, she carried it through to where she is now,” she said. “The biggest message was to listen to it and use it as your guide. In retrospect I wish I would have listened to myself.”
Oprah’s words during the two-hour show in Calgary put things in perspective for Debbie. At the Rowan House she said she felt cloudy and unsure.
“Fleeing domestic violence is a pretty big choice and there are a lot of factors in my circumstances,” she said. “I wondered, ‘Are you doing the right thing for your family?’ After hearing her I felt enlightened.”
“Denise” was also enlightened by Oprah’s words as she watched her on stage that memorable evening in Calgary. She said she could just feel the energy in the crowd and found it exhilarating.
“It opened my eyes once more to where I had wanted to be,” she said. “It was so enlightening and at the same time very encouraging. The tickets couldn’t have been a more appropriate donation.”
Denise struggled to find direction since leaving her abusive home the week before. Hearing Oprah talk about how nothing in life is a mistake and rather than dwelling on those negative things one needs to push forward and go a different direction. Oprah’s message really hit home for her.
“I was up until three in the morning trying to digest and process everything she said that night,” she said. “I picked up a book I had been reading and it confirmed everything that she was saying.”
It was also during a three-hour meditation later in the week Oprah’s words continued to fill her and now Denise feels ready to take that next big step.
“I really felt a confirmation in those three different areas that came together,” she said. “It’s not focusing on the hopelessness or the failures but rather seeing them as a positive.”
Rowan House executive director Sherrie Botten said it’s not uncommon for foothills residents to make donations to the Rowan House, but the last thing she expected was tickets to see Oprah in Calgary.
“I’m always humbled by how generous people are,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the community think of things like this.”
Since the tickets arrived at the Rowan House on Jan. 21, the energy in the house changed.
“There was a lot of excitement in the shelter,” she said. “The next day the ladies shared their experiences and some of the messages that Oprah shared.”
Botton said the woman who donated the tickets also donated money for transportation and for a pizza party held for those unable to attend. She said the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, supported the Rowan House in the past including donating gifts for women and children last Christmas.
“It’s really nice to see that the community is thinking of other ways to support the women and children who come here,” she said. “We wouldn’t have had the ability to fund that.”
Botton said the Rowan House is only able to afford the essentials for the women staying there and some supplies to help them get started on their own.
“When woman come in here, often with nothing, they are just flat out busy trying to find a place to live, trying to get their children established in school… and trying to keep themselves safe,” she said. “To be able to offer some fun activities is really important. It’s nice to take a break from all the trauma and to be able to give women the opportunity to experience something that other people in the community experience.”
Debbie, who is preparing to start a better life for her family, said she will never forget seeing Oprah and staying at the Rowan House.
“I am blessed and thankful to everybody for the support,” she said. “It was a pretty scary situation for us and they helped us feel safe and happy. I’m so thankful and so appreciative for such an amazing and powerful gift.”
To the good samaritan who donated tickets to see Oprah, Debbie said she couldn’t have received a better gift.
“I can’t even express how thankful I am to this woman who I don’t know,” she said. “I wish I had the opportunity to thank her.”