Women living at three shelters across the city were treated to a special spa day for Mother’s Day, thanks to volunteers with Loving Hands Kingston.
Throughout Saturday afternoon, volunteers painted nails, did makeovers, provided haircuts and gave massages to mothers struggling with homelessness living at Lily’s Place, Elizabeth Fry Kingston and Dawn House.
Teresa Drummond is a staff member at Lily’s Place, a shelter for families in housing crisis. All residents at Lily’s Place are couples, single moms or single dads with children who have run out of options for housing.
Drummond said that many families going through Lily’s Place face difficulty and even negativity in their search for permanent housing, and that this can wear people down.
She said the spa day was a great way to boost spirits.
“It’s just giving mothers a chance to feel good about themselves,” Drummond said. “It can be a pretty rough transition. Coming into a shelter can be pretty traumatizing for the moms, as well as the kids. This is a great way for moms to relax, feel like they’re being pampered, lift some spirits.”
“I know that being a parent, if you can feel good about yourself, it transfers into your kids, and then they feel good about themselves,” Maryann Ruttan, founder of Loving Hands Kingston, said. This is the second year that she has organized spa days at Kingston’s shelters for women on Mother’s Day. “That’s one of the main reasons for doing stuff like this.”
Ruttan founded Loving Hands Kingston in 2015, but the endeavour really kicked off in 2017 when Ruttan saw a need among people living in Kingston shelters or exiting shelters into housing of their own.
She started a Facebook page asking for donations to fill the need for furniture, appliances and other household items, and it took off.
“It’s taken off like wildfire, and we’re helping 27 agencies now,” Ruttan said.
“It’s like a little miracle each time,” Cheryl Ferguson, who helps with the office elements of the volunteer organization, said. “The purpose is to help people transitioning from a shelter to starting over. Maryann makes a post on the Facebook page, throws it out to the universe, and every time people connect with it, and it comes together and the help is there when it’s needed.”
“We also assist the shelters with getting toiletries, sleeping bags, feminine hygiene products,” Ruttan said. “We do cold packs in the winter and present spa days, we do secret santa at Christmas time. We do a lot for the community, just to bring a little bit of happiness to somebody’s life who may be struggling with homelessness.”
During the Christmas holiday season, Loving Hands volunteers co-ordinate more than 600 secret santa gifts. They also regularly create “blessing bags” for everyone living in a Kingston shelter. The bags contain items such as shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hot chocolate and instant oatmeal and soups. The dry food and drink items can be used easily by asking for a hot cup of water, which Ruttan said people can often find for free.
“What we take for granted, some people don’t even have the basic necessities,” Ferguson said.
“They’re a great organization,” Drummond said during the spa event at Lily’s Place on Saturday. “They’re great to have in your back pocket at all times. They do wonderful things for the community. They do wonderful things for people in need.”
While Loving hands does what it can to connect items with the people who need them, Ferguson says that often Loving Hands has to turn away donated items because they have nowhere to keep them until a family needs them.
The group has had to reject free furniture and appliance many times because they have no storage space.
“We’re in serious need of free storage,” Ferguson said.
“We need something huge, maybe 1,600 square feet,” Lyle Mailloux, the “heavy lifter” for the non-profit, said. Mailloux does all of the picking up and delivering of the big items that Loving Hands sources for those in need. “We need a space in order to accommodate all the items that everybody needs. It’s great to make it a one-stop shop, where people can go through and get everything they need.”
Ruttan said she is currently turning down five to seven items per week. Having a storage space would allow Loving Hands to accumulate items, which would not only help them meet people’s needs but also provide them some choices.
“People right now, they get what they get,” Ruttan said. “But if there was a spot they could come, they could have their checklist and they could have a choice. It gives them more freedom … and makes it feel more like it’s theirs, like it belongs to them, because they got to pick it out.
“We just try to help out as much as we can. If you can boost somebody’s self-esteem by doing just the simplest act, you can see it not only in their faces but in the faces of those they interact with afterwards. To me, it makes me want to cry. There’s so much joy.”
For more information, go online to www.facebook.com/LovingHandsKingston or contact Maryann Ruttan at 613-217-2354, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.