Earlier this year, well-known B.C. labour lawyer, Kitty Heller, passed away. In addition to her many achievements in the legal field, Kitty was a strong supporter of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry), a non-profit organization that supports women, youth and children at risk, involved in or affected by the justice system.
Kitty was deeply committed to helping create a brighter tomorrow for those in need.
“When she set her mind to something, Kitty could move mountains,” says Shawn Bayes, EFry’s executive director. “We had a saying, “come Heller or high water,” because she was so determined to fight for the rights of people who couldn’t speak for themselves.”
Over the years, Kitty supported a number of EFry projects, including its drop-in centres for women, and the Storybook Program, which helps children maintain a loving bond with incarcerated parents by enabling them to share stories. EFry provides new books to parents, who are recorded reading them, and the books, recordings and a CD player are delivered to the child so they can hear their parent’s voice anytime. She was also a strong proponent of the ‘Am’ut Youth Program because she believed in the need to help Aboriginal youth develop a strong sense of self.
“Kitty approached every challenge head-on,” Shawn says. “Even when she learned she had cancer, she took charge and planned not only for her future, but also for how she could continue to support the things she cared about after she was gone.”
Kitty left a planned gift to EFry, which will help many women rediscover hope and work towards independent, productive lives. Knowing that many of the 10,000 clients EFry serves each year are homeless or transitioning back to the community, Kitty also bequeathed much of her personal furniture to the society. It is now being used to furnish EFry’s shelters and residential programs.
“Gifts like Kitty’s help us shine a light into what has all too often been a very dark life,” Shawn says. “Virtually all our clients live in poverty, and many struggle with addictions and other issues. But we know that where there is hope for a better life and help to get there, the successes people have can be extraordinary.”
With the support of both donors and volunteers, EFry operates more than two dozen programs throughout the Lower Mainland.
"We miss Kitty,” says Shawn. “But she’s still with us, helping to create opportunities for marginalized women and their children to enjoy better lives.”