My name is Donna Gillette and I was Jeremy Harris’s great aunt. Jeremy was my niece’s first child.
I am so grateful to my family for their courage and commitment to making a difference in honour of Jeremy. Together, we have taken a horrific tragedy accompanied by feelings of helplessness and turned them into something positive. I am even more motivated because of my personal experience with domestic violence.
I was a victim of domestic violence in three marriages over a period of about 18 years. My children were also victims. It takes courage to start over and lots of help too. With hard work, some counseling, patience, determination and lots of moral support, I managed to turn my life around. I took some classes and worked my way up in the business world. I was an entrepreneur for 20 years before retiring.
I am deeply moved, touched and inspired to do anything to lend a helping hand to victims of domestic violence.
Everyone is special and worthy of a good life where they feel safe and respected in their own home.
Jeremy’s Memorial Foundation Against Domestic Violence started out in 2001 as a family commitment to help others in memory of Jeremy. We managed to get incorporated as a non-profit organization and then as a registered charity. We restructured at that point to include friends, co-workers and acquaintances.
Domestic Violence is so huge and widespread that we started by focusing on our home community of Richmond, BC and found a good match in the people at Chimo Community Services. We’ve been fortunate over the years to find great mentors – executive directors, house managers and counsellors. We are grateful to them for their gentle guidance.
We had no money, so our early years were spent trying out many fundraising activities. Gradually, our following grew and grew until the majority of our funds came from donations.
In the early years, we actually went into the transition houses. Our first big project was transforming an old storeroom into a lovely quiet room. This room became the favourite spot to meet new clients and have counselling sessions.
Our focus from the start has been women and children fleeing from domestic violence. As a public foundation, we are restricted to giving to other Canadian charities or organizations that are otherwise qualified donees as defined in the Income Tax Act. We choose to give to charities that are operating Transition Houses and Children Who Witness Abuse Programs (CWWA).
We have evolved from providing furniture and renovations to a few houses. We now provide pajamas and other requested goods to 7 organizations that operate a total of 12 houses. This happened in response to the needs of the houses. We pride ourselves in being caring and responsive to the needs of those we support.