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‘Our kitchen helps heal’: Bridgewater domestic violence shelter wins kitchen reno contest

At Harbour House, a 15-bed haven for women and children escaping domestic violence in Bridgewater, N.S., the kitchen is more than a room for cooking.

It’s where body and spirit are nourished, laughter erupts, and sadly, tears are shed.

“I think a lot of women and kids come into the shelter and their spirits and their bodies are pretty broken, and our kitchen helps heal that,” said Jennifer Gagnon, the shelter’s executive director.

But in this 160-year-old home that’s been a shelter for more than three decades, the kitchen needed a lot of TLC — especially the countertop. The laminate had seen better days.

Jennifer Gagnon is the executive director of South Shore Transition House Association. (Linked In)

“We did a little internal renovations a couple of years ago and tried to brighten it up that way, but it certainly didn’t shine,” Gagnon said.

So when the chance to win

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Domestic abuse has risen during the pandemic. Groups like the House of Ruth are ready.

But when schools closed in March, she couldn’t go to her job as a school art therapist and the boys stayed home, watching the rage of their mom’s boyfriend build and burst.

“Because of covid, there was no escape,” she said. “And my sons saw the abuse. And the fear I saw in their eyes was the same fear I had in my eyes when I was little and put in foster care.”

Like this mom, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was scared that her abuser would find her, thousands of others saw dangerous relationships worsen when the pandemic shrank their worlds.

It was her pastor who sensed the woman’s plight and pointed her toward the House of Ruth, where she could stay in a safe house.

Since the shutdown began in March, the House of Ruth has moved 16 women, many with children, into its

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