REGINA — Theresa Hilbig is breathing a little easier these days. She is executive director of Visitation House, a drop-in centre for women established by the Regina archdiocese in 2000. In the 17 years she has occupied the position, she has seen material donations — everything from bedding to a kitchen and dining room set — take up more and more space in the small rooms that make up Visitation House.
“It was at the point where I had to clear a path from our open space to my office,” she says.
The new space is adjacent to the space Visitation House has been occupying, and now they have the entire main floor of the building. The additional space will be used to house donated goods, which include toys, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cosmetic products, paper products and many other goods women might use for themselves or in their homes.
The Knights of Columbus council of Resurrection Parish offered to build shelves in the additional space to bring order to the room and open the floor space to other uses. “Until we ran out of room, we used to have some fitness equipment available.” (A treadmill can be seen hiding among boxes in one of the other rooms.) “With this space I may offer Zumba exercise classes and maybe do some counselling if the need is there.”
Visitation House is located on the eastern edge of Regina’s downtown core and has occupied a large corner room and two smaller rooms on the main floor of an old two-storey brick building. Hilbig was not sure of the square footage of the gathering room where women come to visit, but it is large enough to accommodate a large table with an assortment of chairs, a couple of worn but comfortable chesterfields, and two upholstered armchairs. One end of the room serves as a kitchen.
Visitation House is not a soup kitchen, but it does provide lunches, depending on what comes in as donations.
“We are a drop-in centre for women who come to read the paper, look for work or places to live, use the phone, but mostly they come to talk, visit with others, tell their stories,” Hilbig says.
She will advise women of services they might access with the Government of Saskatchewan or the City of Regina. Some 25 — 35 women a day come to visit. Most are regulars, but each day usually sees one or two newcomers. A few come with babies or toddlers.
Visitation House operates on donations and volunteers. “We enjoy great support from churches, the CWL, individuals, and Knights of Columbus councils,” she said. “Donations pay all our expenses.”
The archdiocese continues to support the centre with funds from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.