Elizabeth Bukala has always loved shopping for clothes.
The Maple Ridge senior prides herself on her sense of style and colour. Shopping has always been a type of therapy for her.
But now Bukala wants to give back to the community and is selling off her colourful wardrobe to raise money for a youth safe house for the community.
Bukala is a member of a group of seniors that meets at the CEED Centre Neighbourhood House on Tuesday mornings.
The CEED Centre Society is a registered charity that was originally formed in 1984 as the Fraser Information Society and is dedicated to community education on the environment and development of social connections and sustainable living practices in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
The seniors group heard about the plight of trafficked and exploited youth from former homeless youth advocate Teesha Sharma, who passed away in February this year at the age of 27.
Sharma, winner of the city’s first Citizen of the Year under 40 in 2018, worked with homeless youth in the community and her dream was to open a youth safe house, to fill the void after the Alouette Home Start Society had to close the Iron Horse Youth Safe House in 2015 when federal funding for the facility ran out.
A homeless youth fund was set up in Sharma’s name by the CEED Centre Society in time for her celebration of life earlier in March. So far, the fund has risen to just short of $3,000 from personal donations, local businesses and other fundraisers.
“The fund will purchase amenities for the youth at the safe house, and if it grows big enough, go toward specialized trauma counselling services,” said Christian Cowley, executive-director of the CEED Centre Society.
“Teesha had a clear vision of how the safe house needed to function so that the scared and traumatized youth could recover their lives,” said Cowley.
After Sharma’s death, Bukala wanted to continue her work and to thank the community for resources she and her son had access to throughout their life.
“It’s been community that has saved my life,” said Bukala, who Cowley also credits with revitalizing the gardens at the CEED Centre and bringing back the idea of setting up community-based mental health programs for the youth and young adults.
“We’re pretty sure that severe anxiety is impacting adults, but we’re not as clear as to which demographic would benefit most,” said Cowley, who is intending to explore the idea of creating adult programs in consultation with other mental health service providers.
In the meantime, Bukala will be selling her clothes 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday at the centre until the end of July.
One day she hopes to open up her own thrift store to support youth in the community even more.
The CEED Centre is located at 11739 223 St. in Maple Ridge.
For more information about the society go to ceedcentre.com.