Interview by Jason Setnyk | Submitted Photo
Cornwall, Ontario – Maison Baldwin House was founded in 1980 by the Sisters of Holy Cross to provide temporary safe shelter for women over 16 years old, with or without children, who must flee their home due to domestic violence.
Debbie Fortier has been the Executive Director since 1999. Debbie started working at the shelter 40 years ago as a front-line Counsellor. She soon moved into the position of Staff Coordinator and later became the Executive Director. Debbie is one of the longest-standing employees in the shelter movement across the province of Ontario. Debbie manages many aspects of the shelter and the social enterprise Serendipity Boutique which she opened over five years ago. Serendipity Boutique helps financially sustain the operating costs to run Maison Baldwin House.
After 40 years of service, Debbie Fortier has been nominated for the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction. Here are five questions she answered for The Seeker magazine.
Five Questions with The Seeker
1 – What is the goal or mission of your organization?
“Our mission is to assist women and their children in a transition from violent and abusive circumstances to a safe and secure environment and a renewed family life by providing safe shelter and services and encouraging them to realize their full human potential. All services are free and confidential”.
2 – What are the ways people in the community can support your organization?
“Maison Baldwin House must fundraise to meet our actual operating costs of the shelter. As you can well imagine with the cost of food and the rising costs of utilities and maintenance, we must reach out to our community. We offer charitable tax receipts for all monetary donations. Donations of food, household items, and such are always welcome at the shelter. Clothing is graciously accepted at the shelter or can be dropped off at Serendipity Boutique at 331 Second Street West when the boutique is open. We run our boutique solely by Volunteers and are always recruiting to increase our capacity at both the shelter and the boutique”.
3 – Tell us about an outcome or success story your organization has had.
“Over the years, we have looked at ways to find additional funding for Maison Baldwin. Over five years ago, we opened a Social Enterprise that would be completely run by Volunteers that could generate finances. Serendipity has been a huge success in our community. In 2019 we were able to build an addition to the building that would give our Volunteers more space to work and increase the capacity of donations. Our little Shabby Chic thrift store is a gem in our community. Customers find great items at great prices, so much is saved from going to the landfill. Women who are residing with us can shop for free”.
4 – What should the public know about your organization and services?
“Maison Baldwin House is a very busy organization in our community. We are a 10-bed shelter and often run at 100% occupancy. Our organization has been offering service to a number of Human Trafficking Victims most recently. While women reside with us, we assist them by advocating on their behalf with services they require to get back on their feet and live a life free from violence. We assist with seeking legal advice, housing, social services, and services for their children; we help make these connections”.
5 – Tell us about volunteers and what they mean to your organization.
“We pride ourselves in the wonderful team of volunteers at both the shelter and Serendipity Boutique. Volunteers fill a variety of roles. They take part in events and fundraisers throughout the year. Without our volunteer team, we simply could not offer the quality of service that we currently offer. We are always recruiting and would love to have you on our team”.
For more information about Baldwin House, visit their website: https://baldwinhouse.ca/