It may have been unusual for the opening of a pet shelter to elicit tears, but this was no ordinary building.
Although the structure contains kennels, enclosures, and pet food, on the entrance wall is a picture of a woman gazing fondly at her little Jack Russell terrier. In one hand she holds a cup of Tim Hortons coffee.
Below photo is an explanation.
“This pet shelter is named ‘Marilyn’s Place’ in honor of Marilyn Kalke who dedicated her life to supporting hundreds of women fleeing abusive relationships throughout her career as a residential home coordinator of transition.
“Marilyn had an incredible passion and connection with humans and animals with many of her own pets being part of her family. She died on November 15, 2021 before the pet shelter could be completed, but we know she would be proud of this project that will help both humans and animals be safe from abuse.
On Wednesday, May 25, people gathered in Salmon Arm for the opening of the pet shelter.
Marilyn’s son, Jordy, talked about her. He said she would have enjoyed the shelter so much.
“She loved animals and she did everything she could for the animals, to help them in any way she could. That’s also something she brought with her into this job that she loved more than anything. This job has been her whole life from the moment she got it.
Jordy said her mother and young sons at the time had to leave a situation similar to what women staying in the SAFE Society halfway house face.
“One of the things I know along the way that has always been problematic for her is knowing that some people didn’t have the opportunity. When they wanted to leave, they had to wonder ‘what am I going to do with my animals that are so important?’ »
He said it would have meant the world to her to know that this barrier no longer exists. He concluded by thanking those who made possible the welcome and honor of his mother.
“My brother and my family couldn’t be happier,” he said, his voice captivating with emotion.
Jane Shirley, Executive Director of the SAFE Society, also paid a moving tribute to Marilyn Kalke and her importance.
“She worked with us for 27 years…a very long time. Due to Covid we couldn’t do anything for her so this is for Marilyn.
When she invited people to stay and have refreshments, she smiled at Marilyn’s penchant for coffee.
“We’re having coffee – she liked Tim Hortons coffee…, she liked the SPCA, she liked working with women. In fact, she’s worked with vulnerable people all her life,” Shirley said, noting that at one point Marilyn was working to help people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Shirley said the SAFE Society is very excited about the completion of the second phase of the project, the third which will include landscaping and additional equipment for the shelter.
She thanked supporters including the Shuswap Community Foundation, McDiarmid Construction, Women Who Wine, the Shuswap SPCA, Paige Hilland and the many others who contributed to the project.
Then came the inauguration, performed by Jordy Kalke, Jane Shirley, Karen Berger who is the president of the SAFE Society; and Maxine Kaszas, a close friend and longtime colleague of Marilyn.
National statistics provided by the SAFE Society show that 59% of women surveyed delayed leaving an abusive partner due to concern for a pet. Eighty-nine percent of women living in domestic violence shelters who had pets said their pets had been abused.
Animals can be used by abusers to control victims and keep them in fear, to punish or silence them, and to eliminate a source of comfort or support.
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