Dedicated to helping women and their families build better, safer, and stronger lives, the Lacombe-based Broom Tree Foundation continues to expand its reach across the region.
The Foundation was launched in early 2020 to support women and their families within the community.
“We want to figure out what the individual needs are, meet the women and their families where they are at, and then assess from there what we can do to potentially help,” said Tamara Noordhof, co-founder of (along with Donna Abma) and program director for the Broom Tree Foundation.
That includes helping women get to the point where they can be ‘leaders’ of their own lives, she said.
For the Foundation, it essentially breaks down into three main components.
First, offering help with finding or preparing for employment opportunities.
Secondly, support through the Bridges Program and thirdly providing help with the search for temporary or transitional housing.
“We really wanted to help women who - maybe they’ve been incarcerated or they’ve met with a significant crisis in their lives whether it be domestic violence or something like that. They’ve found themselves with no income, or maybe their spouse left. They may have no employable skills at all.”
That’s where the concept of the Broom Tree Cafe came in.
“We decided that a social enterprise cafe would be a great way to start,” she said.
It’s about providing a means of building skills, and it’s working out beautifully. “It helps to give confidence, plus it gives a boost to their resumes,” she explained.
Even during pandemic shutdowns, more and more volunteers were getting in touch, wanting to help out in some way - with the cafe or with the Foundation in general.
So they shifted gears at the time and focused on helping folks with food security - tapping into the outpouring of support they had received in terms of food and donations. “I can’t stress enough how generous this community has been,” she said.
“So the food security piece was then implemented, and we decided that we wanted to give out tokens.”
These tokesn would go to vulnerable families who needed assistance. They could then come to the Foundation and get the food supplies they needed.
And the vision just kept growing.
One year ago, they launched the Broom Tree Table Meal. “The idea is that everyone is welcome to the table.
On Monday morning, any family could order a big and complete, tasty meal online that feeds about six people.
“You pay $50 for that meal, and right away we turn around and donate the exact same meal to a family in need,” she said.
“We have fed over 300 families this year! So that’s been a really cool initiative because we have all of these volunteers who want to serve. And churches have been calling also asking what they can do to support us.”
To that end, volunteers with Clive Baptist Church prepare these meals in their church kitchen.
“They just dropped them off this morning,” she said. “And pretty much all of our ingredients are donated, too.
S4 Greenhouses donates veggies, Co-op donates bread, Five-Star Dairy donates dairy, and Rangeland Meats donates bison, she noted. “Sunny Crest Farms donates all of our potatoes, too.”
Then there is the Bridges Program - a way of connecting volunteers with women who need that personal source of support as they try to find their way.
“When we first started, we were meeting 40 women weekly at a time,” she said, adding that pandemic restrictions later meant they had to go to a one-on-one format. “We decided to train women in the community to become mentors.
“We’ve seen women come to us who haven’t had healthy relationships or connections in their lives. Everyone needs a champion; everyone needs an anchor,” she said.
They are also about to provide the same type of service to men - the Broom Tree Brothers Program.
In the meantime, they have trained 20 women to become Broom Tree Sisters, and they match them up with women in need. It’s confidential, and they meet for one hour each week.
“We offer training for this four times a year, and we have so many women on the wait list who want to become Broom Tree Sisters.”
Several local churches also have a Broom Tree liaison, where Foundation staff can reach out and ask for support in a specific way.
“It’s been an absolutely God-inspired part of it,” she said, adding that Christian faith ultimately is at the heart of what the Broom Tree Foundation is all about.
The Foundation’s name comes from the Bible story of Elijah, a prophet on the run for his life in the desert who found refuge and rest under a Broom Tree (1 Kings 19).
He was exhausted on every level but God saw to his needs, and ultimately strengthened him to continue on in his mission and journey.
“That’s what we want. We want women to come here. We want you to be warm, and to have shelter. And we want you to rest. From there, let’s assess what you need and continue your journey.”
For more about the Foundation, visit www.thebroomtreefoundation.com.