Never forgetting where you come from
Significant donation to Saskatoon YWCA Turning Points program
Bonnie Gitzel has never forgotten where she came from – and on International Women’s Day, she’s going back to her roots to make a critical difference for women in need. The Gitzel family – led by Bonnie and her husband Tim, along with their children Bailey and Ty – are making a $100,000 donation to the Saskatoon YWCA’s Turning Points program to help women improve their lives.
“The YWCA offers a seamless service to young women and their families through crisis housing, counselling and support,” said Bonnie. “The Turning Points program gives women and their families a full year of supported transitional housing while also providing ongoing personal, educational and employment counselling, as well as links to their employment programs while they transition to independent living.”
Bonnie’s story is about overcoming adversity, finding strength and succeeding. Consistently humble and quiet about her story until now, here is Bonnie’s journey in her own words…
International Women’s Day is a time for us to strive for equality and celebrate the accomplishments of women in our society. The campaign theme for Women’s Day 2021 is “Choose to Challenge” through uplifting women, heeding the call to action, collaborating with key stakeholders and philanthropy.
This year, on behalf of my family, I am proud to make this contribution to the YWCA of Saskatoon.
Let me give you a short version of why my family, in light of all the deserving organizations in Saskatoon, chose the YWCA’s Turning Points program.
I was the first woman in my immediate and extended family who had the opportunity to attend high school, much less graduate. I was also the first to go to university.
I was my mother’s third living child, given the miscarriages that she endured, during a marriage fraught with physical and sexual abuse, poverty and alcoholism. Fortunately, I have few scars from those years. Unfortunately, mom and my older sister weren’t so lucky.
Mom escaped — literally running away with us in the middle of the night — with absolutely nothing.
In those days, divorce was frowned upon, and child support or “alimony” (as it was termed back in the 1960s) was extremely rare, and certainly there were no counselling services. Our biological father basically erased us from his life. My mom’s family, dealing with their own poverty, were unable to offer any support.
And so we lived: a single mom, raising three kids on social assistance and trying to find work with a Grade 8 education. My oldest sister, scarred from the physical abuse and trauma she endured, had to grow up very quickly and be our caregiver while mom spent long hours working when she could.
Being so young myself, there was little I could do to help my mom or my sister. However, they certainly helped me understand how crucial it would be for me to empower and educate myself. So, with their support, I was able to finish not only high school but degrees in both Education and Social Work.
My career started in La Loche, where I met some of the most amazing women who desperately wanted a better future for their families but struggled endlessly with issues far beyond their control and with little or no support.
Eventually I returned to Saskatoon and with my education was able to work in conjunction with both boards of education and a variety of NGOs, to identify and support youth and young adults who faced barriers to education and employment.
So fast forward 20 years, I am now in a position to give even more. I am in full support of the YWCA’s amazing programs and services for women and their families. You never forget where you came from.
This contribution to the YWCA’s Turning Points Program is made in recognition of International Women’s Day and is dedicated to my incredible mom and sister, who in spite of their many struggles and scars, shielded me from so much. I only wish the YWCA services had been available to them.
Our family continues to be humbled by the strength and courage of the women in this program and by the work of the YWCA.
This is just the beginning as we look forward to opportunities where we can help grow this program and support the more than 3,000 women that seek services of the YWCA each year. We encourage everyone in the community to learn more and donate to this amazing organization.
For more information, please contact:
Director of Development and Engagement