Rowan House a haven during holiday season

Wheel Cares: Emergency Shelter seeks to give dignity back to victims of abuse

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am

Rowan House Emergency Shelter employees Jaunita Wilson and Christy Elliott are ready for Christmas at Rowan House on Monday morning.
Rowan House Emergency Shelter employees Jaunita Wilson and Christy Elliott are ready for Christmas at Rowan House on Monday morning.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The holiday season can be the most difficult time of the year for victims of domestic abuse.

The Rowan House Emergency Shelter, one of five recipients of the annual Western Wheel Cares fundraising campaign, strives to give families a home setting and a Christmas they can enjoy in the midst of trying circumstances.

“What we like to do at Rowan House is to give moms back their dignity by being able to provide them an opportunity to then purchase things for their children or give their children a somewhat nice family setting at Christmas,” said Rowan House executive director Sherrie Botten. “A mom for many, many reasons may find herself in an emergency shelter at Christmas time, but that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t want to provide a nice Christmas for her family.

“We’re hoping to use the dollars that are going to come in from Western Wheel Cares to ensure that the women here over Christmas, or connected with our outreach over Christmas, can also provide those things for their families.”

High River’s Rowan House accommodates free housing, food, clothing and toiletries for women and children victimized by domestic abuse, ranging from physical, mental to emotional. As women and children enter the shelter during the holiday season, Botten and the staff at Rowan House strive to create a sense of normalcy for the families.

“Families are coming to Rowan House for many reasons all through the year. Christmas can be more emotionally charged because it’s very much a family time,” Botten said. “If you find yourself not with family or if mom and children are at an emergency shelter, where we try to make it a very nice family type setting, but you really are living with another six to seven families.”

The shelter, which opened its doors at its new location last year, is still getting on its feet after taking severe damage to its building during the June 20 flooding in High River. In December, Rowan House will open its two bedrooms temporarily closed due to flood damage and will be back up to capacity of seven bedrooms. In 2014, the shelter will be opening all of its 24 beds.

The flood has also added a layer of stress to those coming to Rowan House, from not having a home, to living in a rental or temporary housing.

“What we’re seeing is an increased level in trauma in the families that are coming to us,” Botten said. “The flood has certainly impacted the ability for anyone, but certainly our women, to find affordable housing.”

Botten is acutely aware a lot of fundraising efforts have been directed towards flood recovery, but noted the importance of donations to Rowan House.

“We’re certainly aware there is a lot of people that have lost a lot of things in our area so we’re really cautious about asking the community to give if they’re not in a space where they can,” Botten said. “Whatever does come to us, we’re going to make the most of it and ensure that the families that are here are going to have the best Christmas possible.”

She told the Western Wheel the shelter needs to fundraise approximately $500,000 annually to operate. Items needed include food, bedding, toiletries, gift cards to local businesses and gas cards.

For more information about the Rowan House Emergency Shelter go to

The Rowan House crisis line is 403-652-3311 or call toll free at 1-866-331-3933 to be directed to the nearest shelter to you.

The other recipients for the Western Wheel Cares fundraising initiative are the Okotoks Food Bank, the Foothills Country Hospice, The Sheep River Health Trust and the Magic of Christmas.

For more information on Wheel Cares contact Gayle Wolf at 403-938-6397 or

To participate, call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. (403-938-6397) and make a donation using your credit card.

We also accept debit, cash and cheques (payable to Western Wheel Cares), either dropped off at the office, #9 McRae Street or mailed to Box 150, Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash). Or visit to donate using Paypal.

All donations of $10 or more will receive a 2013 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign.


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