Vernon Women’s Transition House Society staff members Ninke Beeksma (left)

Vernon Women’s Transition House Society staff members Ninke Beeksma (left)

A little black dress with a big impact

The Vernon Women’s Transition House Society has been providing programs for women and children for four decades

The iconic little black dress has proved its versatility for almost 100 years. Now it’s helping the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society mark 40 years of community service, with the Little Black Dress Party.

The fourth annual event gives women a chance to show off a favourite LBD and have fun while raising money for society programming for women and children in the North Okanagan.

“I went for the first time last year. It’s really a great girls’ night out where women can get together and support a great cause. Even women who never need the services might know of someone who does and recommend the programs so they want the programs to be available,” said Micki Materi, co-executive director of programs for Vernon Women’s Transition House Society.

Ninke Beeksma is the co-executive director of administration for Vernon Women’s Transition House Society.

“The idea is to have something specifically for women to recognize what all women do in their busy lives every day,” she said. “It’s a time to dress up, relax in good company and have fun. It’s great to see how women each make their little black dress as individual as they are. It has always been sold out.”

The fun includes dinner, live music by The Legendary Lake Monsters, a silent auction, cash bar, balloon pop and a chance to get together with old and new friends. It all takes place at the Vernon Golf and Country Club Oct. 22. Tickets are $55 until Oct. 15 and $70 after. Call 250-558-3850. Sponsors are Cotton’s Chocolates, Sunfm, Nixon Wenger, Village Green Centre and Night Owl.

“It’s good to celebrate femininity and positive energy and the women in the community. It’s women supporting women. We enjoy meeting the women from other service agencies, as well as other women in the area,” said Materi.

Vernon Women’s Transition House began when a group of local women wanted to do something to mark International Women’s Year in 1975. The first program focused on having a safe place for women to stay when they left an abusive relationship, and the first Transition House was in the old United Church manse on 27th Street. The new house, built with community support, opened in 1993. A second residential program, Second Stage, offers support for pregnant and parenting teenage mothers.

There are now a variety of programs in six locations.

“The services are on a continuum, from safe accommodation in crisis, to counselling and help for the next steps, to outreach programs for women and children,” said Materi. “We provide the programs and try to make sure that people know the resources that are available to them. The decisions and choices are always made by the individuals themselves.”

Beeksma added that sometimes knowledge can connect people with resources before they reach a crisis situation.

“We are there with practical information so that women can make their own choices about leaving or staying in their present situation,” she said. “These women may be seen by society as being weak but the women are very strong as they deal with things that affect the future for themselves and their children. We are here to help. There are certain points in life when all of us need help with something.”

Other programs include the Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre for children and youth under age 19 who may have experienced sexual assault, abuse or witnessed a crime while the Specialized Victim Assistance Program provides justice system related support. The Homelessness Prevention Program assists women to find affordable housing and the Outreach Services Program provides advocacy and support for women who don’t need or want to come to Transition House. There are also legal services programs and counselling by professional counsellors for women and children who have experienced family violence. These programs are available by self-referral and are free of charge. The Emergency Teen Shelter Program is by referral from a Ministry of Child & Family Development social worker.

The Community Partnership Programs are the North Okanagan Integrated Case Assessment Team, the first in the province, which works towards reducing the risk of serious bodily harm or death to victims of domestic violence or stalking. As well, North Okanagan Sexual Assault Services is an emergency, confidential hospital and community-based service, and the North Okanagan Child Advocacy Response Service helps child victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Funding for Vernon Women’s Transition House Society comes from B.C. Housing, Gaming Policy & Enforcement Branch, Ministry for Children & Family Development, Law Foundation of BC, Legal Services Society, Ministry of Justice and Department of Justice, with assistance from community donations and fundraising.

For more information about Vernon Women’s Transition House Society, its programs and volunteer opportunities, call 250-558-3850 or see