Jessica Fraga and her husband Gary and their four-year-old son with some of the elves Jessica created to sell in aid of The Redwood, a Toronto women’s shelter. Photo courtesy Fraga family

Crafty mother’s skills aid abused women

  • December 18, 2021

Stay-at-home mom Jessica Fraga is using her love of crafting again this year to raise funds for abused women.

For the second Christmas in a row, the Toronto mother has been busy customizing stuffed holiday elves to sell and raise money for a local women’s shelter.

In 2020 she promoted her initiative to just friends and family on her personal social media page and raised $500 for The Redwood — an organization that helps women and children live free from domestic abuse. The crafty mother of one branched out this year, advertising to an online Catholic parent group she is a member of and was blown away by the support.

“I posted it and I wasn’t expecting such a big response,” said Fraga. “It was overwhelming. This year I’ve had 500 elf orders. I think I’m going to be able to donate more than a thousand dollars which is amazing. It’s fantastic to be able to give back and that feeling of knowing that you’re going to make somebody else happy just makes you happy.”

Fraga discovered the charity through her husband, a real-estate agent who is regularly involved with fundraisers. Fraga was moved by the testimony of a woman who related how the organization helped her to start a new life. She had come from another country and was in an arranged marriage to a husband who began abusing her when they began living together. With no family in Canada to turn to she contacted The Redwood and got the support she needed to get on her feet.

“She stayed in their shelter for quite a few months,” said Fraga. “They gave her counselling and programs to start a new life and to support herself. Through that she was able to get an education, her own job and to get her own place and start her life.

“I’ve been so blessed in life with my family and my husband. I felt so strongly for that woman having to go through that, having no one to help her. Feeling alone and there being a service like that to help people, I just think is phenomenal.”

For Fraga crafting is a relaxing hobby she deeply enjoys. With her son having started kindergarten in September, and pregnant with the family’s second child, she found herself with time on her hands and decided to go full throttle with the initiative. A devoted Catholic, she says making the elves is one of the ways the family wants to teach their children about the importance of giving to others.

“My Catholic faith has always been a very strong part of my Portuguese heritage but since getting married and having my children, I find I have a deeper connection with God,” said Fraga, who has been married for five years. “I pray more to Him and I find that in doing services like this, I feel more connected by being more altruistic and charitable. My son is getting to an age where he understands more about appreciating and giving back. It’s a good example for him to see his parents do that.”

Fraga  purchases the elves partially assembled, and after correcting any imperfections, customizes each to suit individual requests. Designs are created through a computer and cut on vinyl using a digital die-cutting machine through which she is able to create personalized name graphics, as well as adornments and details such as the year or a child’s birthday.

Catherine May, director of fundraising and communications at The Redwood, says while it gets half of its support through government funding, it relies heavily on community support to stay afloat. With just 11 bedrooms and 35 beds it is always at capacity and need is always great particularly in light of the pandemic. Calls to the 24/7 helpline went from 400-500 a year to over 1,500 in the first year of the pandemic.

May says none of it would be possible without people like Fraga taking on the mantle in their own way.

“We talk about community resolve and that really speaks to what Jessica is doing,” said May. “If the community does not want violence against women to end it won’t.

“We think about this every day. As special as Christmas is to me and to many people, Catholics don’t just think about their faith on Christmas Eve. It’s what you do 365 days of the year. That’s what matters most.”

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