By Mitali Pradhan, December 14 2020—
The Elizabeth Fry Society (EFry), an organization supporting vulnerable populations involved with the justice system, is hosting an online charity auction until Dec. 15. The COVID-19 pandemic has adjusted the organization’s method of business as a direct-to-client service support as well as led to significant funding cuts expected in early 2021. Katelyn Lucas, Executive Director of EFry, stressed that numerous programs offered by the organization were at risk due to the expected funding cuts.
The organization assists vulnerable populations through programs of Affordable Housing, Immigrant Legal Advocacy, Court Programs, Indigenous Cultural Supports, Legal Advocacy, Prison Community Outreach, Emotional Wellness and Employment Readiness. EFry is best known for working with women in the prison system to prepare them for their release into the community. The organization focuses on successful reintegration and reduction of overrepresentation of Indigenous women. On their website, it is noted that despite Indigenous people comprising only five per cent of the population, they make up 27 per cent of admissions into correctional institutions.
The organization has partnered with Alberta Justice with the Calgary Indigenous Court to provide support for individuals on a healing plan for re-engaging with culture to increase connection to their community. Second, the Court Programs focus on a confusing court system and the impacts of a criminal record on future employment and housing. EFry’s court liaisons and volunteers provide legal assistance and legal advocacy for individuals who require help filing or filling documents. Specifically targeting youth, EFry also has mentorship programs for connecting youth with positive mentorship for a minimum of one year to provide an adult support system. In addition to these services, the organization provides a wide range of assistance to vulnerable populations.
“We try to empower and get people moving forward in their life in a really positive way,” stated Lucas. “When our programs are cut due to funding that doesn’t just affect our organization, it affects the people that we are serving in a really detrimental way.”
Among other funding cuts, EFry’s volunteer core program has been given notice of funding cuts. This program allows individuals to volunteer and provide legal advice for potential plea options, help accessing legal resources for individuals who cannot afford lawyers and discuss options for tickets in traffic courts. The volunteers are also provided with free training regarding the legal system, Indigenous awareness, immigrant issues and cultural diversity.
The auction, aimed to continue providing funding for programs such as the volunteer core program, has over $50,000 worth of items and a goal of raising $20,000. Cultural crafts such as beaded earrings, jewellry, paintings, T-shirts and sculptures are available in the charity auction. Experiences such as a guided Indigenous tour, hair-cuts and hotel stays are also part of the auction. Following the auction, EFry is planning a GoFundMe for their volunteer core program and highlighting previous and current volunteers. A virtual fashion show is also being planned in early 2021.
“We are not fundraising for the agency,” stated Lucas, “We are fundraising for the population that we serve. These are individuals who are going to lose opportunities to make changes in their lives.”
More information on the charity auction can be found on their website.