West Island charity finds new space after losing previous location due to strike

Click to play video: 'West Island charity finds new space after strike kicked them out of location'
West Island charity finds new space after strike kicked them out of location
WATCH: It has been an emotional week for a family-run charity in Pierrefonds. On Tuesday, Global News reported that 'Elves filling Shelves' was forced to move from their headquarters inside a school affected by the ongoing teachers' strike. Now, less than 24 hours later, a Good Samaritan has come forward offering a new location. Global's Phil Carpenter reports. – Dec 6, 2023

Kristy Westlake worries a locker room at the l’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève social centre might be too small for a massive operation to help families in need.

“We’ll make it work because I can’t disappoint 145 families,” she insisted.

This problem pales in comparison to the one she was dealing with just 24-hours earlier. Tuesday evening her family-run charity, Elves Filling Shelves, was forced to leave a donated space at the Altitude High School in Pierrefonds.

Because of the public sector strike, Westlake and her volunteers could not cross a picket line at the school. Subsequently, all activities at the school, even ones not connected to the institution, were shut down. That included groups the borough of Pierrefond-Roxboro partnered with, according to a borough spokesperson.

But help soon arrived. Tuesday evening Doug Hurley, president of the Île-Bizard Optimist Club heard what was happening.

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“Within an hour he stepped up and offered us this, which was a lifesaver,” Westlake told Global News. “Is a lifesaver.”

Hurley says when he heard of Westlake’s problem he knew he could help.

“I’m already set up for doing the Christmas food drive in Île-Bizard and Sainte-Geneviève,” he explained.

Click to play video: 'West Island charity desperately seeking new space after strike gets them kicked out'
West Island charity desperately seeking new space after strike gets them kicked out

His organization has two locker rooms reserved for that food drive, and it’s one of them that he offered to Westlake. He says if his drive collects more donations than the two spaces can handle, they’ll find a way.

“We will find solutions to any problem that comes up,” he smiled.

In a statement to Global News Wednesday Benoît Giguère, vice-president, labor relations at Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE), the union representing the striking teachers, wrote: “The FAE contacted the organization and the local union as soon as it became aware of the situation. The FAE wishes to allow the organization to continue its activities.”

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Westlake confirms that someone from the union did contact her but by then her charity had already lost the space.

“Too little, too late,” Westlake stated. “Indeed if they had responded last week, none of this would’ve happened.”

She still hopes to find a larger space to accommodate the hundreds of boxes she’s expecting saying she has only a tenth of what’s coming in the next few days. For now she’s vowing to make it work and plans to resume collection of donations by Thursday.

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