Brilliant Caring: Transforming Lives Forever

This story is one of two births – Ally’s and Amelia’s.

It is also one that very well displays how Burlington Foundation’s commitment to sustainable change is critical.

“Much community change can be transitory and temporary. Where the Foundation excels is in ensuring that we’re able to carry on offering our Moms a community of care where they are genuinely considered family,” observes Nancy Romic, Executive Director of Shifra Homes, a maternity residence and resource centre in Burlington that supports young, homeless, pregnant women.

“We are so much more than a shelter that provides only temporary respite for young, homeless mothers,” she says. “Our Moms come back to us regularly, long after we’ve helped them transition to living independent lives with their babies. Whether it’s for a little helping hand with food and baby supplies or with intervention with social agencies, or just for some warmth and hugs, support from organizations such as the Foundation means we can keep the doors open.”

Bouncing and burbling while sitting on Ally’s lap, little Amelia possesses the kind of sparkle and shine normally reserved for television commercial babies.  While she doesn’t know it yet, Amelia is generationally important. She’s the first baby born in three generations who won’t battle Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).  That didn’t happen by chance and without Shifra and the support of Burlington Foundation this story may well have had a very different outcome.

At age four, Ally was caring for two younger siblings. Her birth parents were both physically and emotionally absent most of the time. As unthinkable as that seems, the resilience of young Ally somehow came through. She would do her best to ensure her siblings were fed – at least something – even if all she could scrabble together was sugar water in a feeding bottle and some bread scraps.

Finally, her lot in life appeared to change for the better when Helen stepped up to adopt. “We didn’t know how hurt Ally really was when we first brought her home,” Helen reflects. “All I could see was a beautiful, little blonde seven-year old girl who needed me.”

Ally picks up on Helen’s narrative, “I didn’t know how to play. I was struggling a lot. I struggled with authority, with relationships, and pretty much everything. And, as I became a teen, I wrestled with drugs and alcohoI for years. I have done counselling forever, since I can remember anything,” she recalls. “It never worked. I was angry all the time. Until I got here.”

“Now, I will be clean for two years this summer,” Ally smiles. “That never would have happened, Amelia would never have had this chance for a full life, without the help I got here.”

Wesley and Natalie, are a young couple who came to Shifra three years ago when she was 10 weeks pregnant with their daughter Chelsea Sophia. “It was the most incredible experience of my life.  Nancy helped me connect with people, organizations and programs to get us up on our feet and they continue to do so even today.”

“Nancy comes to all our meetings, she helps us emotionally, she helps us financially,” says Natalie. “She believes in us. I can’t even tell you how much Shifra enables us to simply cope with everything we have to encounter. I don’t know what we’d do without Shifra.”

“When we speak of the ripple effect that giving through the Foundation creates, we’re talking about the ability for donors and fundholders to help us provide critical support to organizations that partner with us to create long-term change for good,” says Colleen Mulholland, Burlington Foundation President and CEO. “Breaking the cycle of poverty, the cycle of abuse, or the everyday challenges faced by those most vulnerable can only be accomplished when people come together with common focus on sustaining real change. By helping our community marshal the resources of time, talent and treasure, we all benefit.”

Babies Amelia and Chelsea may never know how this small house in Burlington played an enormous role in the start of their life. In much the same way, many of us who enjoy the benefit of living in Burlington, Canada’s #1 mid-size city, will never know how, very quietly there are ripples of change expanding throughout the community.

What we can know though is that each of us can make a positive contribution, large or small, to creating meaningful, sustainable change by giving brilliantly. As Colleen Mulholland concludes, “Our grant making expertise helps people to give and build legacies while supporting donor wishes and addressing the highest priority needs in our community. Each grant truly makes a difference to our neighbours, friends, colleagues and their families, as Burlington Foundation continues to strengthen Burlington with impactful legacy giving.”

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