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Rooted: Women's volunteer group IODE supporting those in need in the community

'Most of our members are people who have been privileged and want to find a way to provide those opportunities to those who haven’t'

Rooted is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home. 


National Volunteer Week for 2022 concludes today, (Friday, April 30th) and the theme this year in Canada was; “Volunteering Is Empathy In Action.”

The members of IODE exemplify that quality as their mandate is to help people and connect people through citizenship, services and education.

Heather Stuart (President of the local chapter) says, “Citizenship involves encouraging the youth. We give an award to a graduate of every high school in North Bay who is involved in something that would be considered being a good citizen to their community.”

She adds, the services side has expanded during the pandemic and, “We have continued donations to the local food bank because of food insecurities over these last few years,” says Stuart.

Lastly, “In education, we have scholarships and bursaries at both Nipissing University and Canadore College and we also have a bursary at the Transition House for women to break that cycle of poverty that leads to domestic violence.”

The IODE (formerly known as the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) has been around for a long time, with chapters across Canada.

“When IODE started during the Boer War and for a number of years after that, it was very much focused on war efforts, then Veterans and their families,” says Stuart.

“It started out as a way to send the troops supplies. IODE Canada also had a fund set up to send a Christmas Hamper to those Canadian Veterans in need who decided to stay in England after the war.”

Pat Moulson is a North Bay Museum Volunteer and belongs to a number of area service clubs. She says, “They also sent over a lot of wedding dresses because for six years, there just wasn’t any money for new brides to spend on a wedding dress, so they would borrow them from Canadians so that they could be married in a beautiful dress.”

Stuart continues, “Once we moved passed the second World War, the organization needed to change and reflect the life of the current day and age and so one focus was on the citizenship awards with ceremonies.”

Stuart says that when the local chapter started in 1933, one area of focus was on helping children with medical needs.

“There was no universal health care coverage at the time and so the group organized fundraisers to help with children for surgeries such as having their tonsils removed. It was a group just dedicated to looking after what the needs of children were at that present day.”

Fast forward to today’s present day and Stuart says their current means of raising money is through a thrift store called The Victory Shoppe, located across from the Pro Cathedral, which has and been in its current location since the 1960s.

Mouslon says over the last few years there has been a downward trend in memberships for this group, “Compared to when these groups first started.”

“But that’s because most women do work outside the home now. During the 1930s and 1940s the women in these groups were homemakers and so they would invite each other over to their homes and be able to plan out what they were going to focus on and how to raise money for their causes,” says Moulson.

Stuart says the group consists of women from all walks of life who draw on their experiences to help the causes IODE is passionate about.

“IODE Canada gives out a grant every second year to an organization that is dedicated to helping children,” says Stuart.

“In 2013 the local Children’s Aid Society received that grant for $25,000 to run a program to assist parents whose children were in care to develop the skills needed to get their children back. Now, we have somebody new coming into our chapter who has spent their professional life with the Children’s Aid Society and found out about our group because of that grant. Now that she’s retired, she’s interested in joining and wants to give back to the community.”

Stuart says they get most of their new members through work we do in community and because of our thrift store.

“Many are retired professionals who enjoy working with kids, such as teachers and parents who did their best to better their lives and this is a way they can continue to fulfill that passion.”

Stuart adds, “There are children and families out there who need help and I would say most of our members are people who have been privileged and want to find a way to provide those opportunities to those who haven’t.”

Those opportunities include the scholarships and bursaries mentioned earlier and some of the high schools would ask their students to write a letter to IODE as a thank you note to let the group know what the student had done and why they were chosen for that award.

Stuart says, “We always appreciated finding out what the students did in order to receive their award.”

She adds, “One of the other things we do is donate some funding to the local science fair. The kids who win at the local science fairs end up going to the Canada-wide fair and so that funding helps offset their expenses for that trip. The interesting thing about the science fair is that the fee is the same, no matter where the fair is happening and that makes it a very equitable way of doing things for those kids and so we like to help out with those costs.”

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