By Joanna Cockerline
Everyone who came out to throw axes at Kelowna’s Axe Monkeys on the evening of April 25 had a great time while also supporting a great cause: The re-opening of the House of HOPE, a safe house for women striving to get off Kelowna’s streets and transition to safer, healthier lives.
HOPE (Helping Out People Exploited) is a grassroots organization initiated by Angie Lohr, a recovered addict and former sex-trade worker dedicated to helping women struggling on the street. Alongside one other woman, Lohr started the initial outreach program in 2008, walking the streets nightly to share information about community resources alongside basic health and hygiene supplies, plus emotional support for girls and women who vitally need it.
“The day I attended the memorial for a teenage girl we’d tried to help on the streets,” Lohr recalled sadly, “I felt compelled to do everything possible to help girls and women have a safe place to get off the streets and recover.”
In 2010, the House of HOPE was established. The house connects women dealing with homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, and trauma to community services, physicians, counsellors, mental health providers, and a 12-step recovery program. The House of HOPE furthers women’s recovery by offering wellness initiatives such as yoga, equine therapy, gardening, a nutritious cooking program, and an empowering writing and healing circle. A professional writer will also be available to help the women with job applications and resumes when they are ready to seek employment.
To date, over 250 women have stayed and healed at the house, moving on to more positive educational and employment horizons.
Due to strapped resources, the House stopped intakes in 2016. The nightly outreach program, now backed by over 70 trained and caring volunteers, continued. Yet in the face of the growing fentanyl crisis Lohr was determined to re-open the House of HOPE no matter what.
This May, the House of HOPE will officially re-open, thanks to the dedication of volunteers, kind-hearted individuals, local businesses, and community supporters. The HOPE team is actively fundraising to raise the $100,000 per year it takes to run the program. Lohr has committed a significant amount of her own personal savings in hopes that the community will match those funds.
“It’s wonderful to see individuals, businesses, and community groups come together to lend their skills and resources to help some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Lohr said. “Every contribution matters. Together, we can make a real difference to those who really need it.”
The axe-throwing charity event at the new Kelowna business Axe Monkeys is just one example of how people can all make a difference. Axe Monkeys, Kelowna’s first and only axe-throwing facility, which has a flagship premiere axe-throwing venue in Las Vegas, is currently gaining a wide following of enthusiasts of all ages – whether for birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, corporate team building events, divorce parties, or just to have fun. Axe Monkeys is committed to helping community causes, and donated a percentage of proceeds earned at the April 25 event to HOPE.
Additional local businesses are also stepping up. Joining the generous existing supporters, just this week, Mosaic Books, Kelowna’s downtown independent bookstore, has kindly ordered numerous specifically-chosen books for the House of HOPE’s empowering reading and writing circle, which will be led by a professional writer and educator familiar with the challenges the women face.
Winn Rentals has generously donated the rental of a rototiller to prepare the garden from which House of HOPE residents and volunteers will grow fruits and vegetables, enabling them to cook healthy communal meals. Art Knapp Garden Centre has committed to donating those vegetable plants and fruit bushes and trees. These, and other businesses and organizations, epitomize what working together towards positive change can do.
HOPE always appreciates and recognizes donations and donations in kind, whether items or services. Anyone interested in helping out is welcome to contact HOPE by visiting their website (https://www.hope-outreach.com), calling Angie Lohr at (250) 864-0399, or emailing Angie@hope-outreach.com.