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Community comes together for Elizabeth Fry Society after devastating fire

Community groups have offered everything from office equipment to PPE, says director

In the aftermath of the May 11 fire at the main Elm Street location of the Elizabeth Fry Centre of Northeastern Ontario, Cory Rosyln, Executive Director, looked through one of the now charred windows. 

She took a photo of what she saw, a painting of their namesake, Elizabeth Fry, whose work in prison reform was renowned enough to name an organization after her.   

“I was standing on the front lawn of the office, after the firefighters had left, waiting for the criminal investigation to happen and for the insurance company to come,” Roslyn told “And I was standing there looking through that window, and I noticed that it was still hanging there. It's damaged, but it's still there. You can still see her. And that's the picture that we've had hanging there for 40 years.”

It’s a ray of hope for an organization that could use a bit of sunshine. The fire started in the main office, but water and smoke spread the damage around. Now, not only has the Elizabeth Fry Centre in Sudbury lost its home, but the resources and supplies it keeps on hand for its clients, like the fresh food pantry, are lost as well.

“We keep this stockpile of items that our clients need,” said Roslyn. “Basic tents, sleeping bags, hygiene kits, toothbrushes, all that sort of thing, women's clothing. All of that gone, all of that has too much smoke damage to be used.”

But as the saying goes, the night is always darkest right before the dawn. Just after the fire, Roslyn and the staff of the Elizabeth Fry Centre learned how wonderful their counterparts in the Sudbury community could be.  

“The other community organizations in town have just supported us so well over the last week,” said Roslyn. “Giving us what they can to help us like everything from office supplies to PPE for our staff, even computers and monitors and all those things.” 

The community groups are supporting Elizabeth Fry Society clients as well, says Roslyn. “The Centre de santé offered us their space the day of the fire, immediately. We were able to get back up and running the very next day, that was fantastic.”

There have also been donations from other groups, businesses and firms in the Sudbury area, says Roslyn. 

“Almost every organization in town has reached out to say, hey, how can we help? It’s almost hard to keep up with the amount of support that we've received — it ‘s fantastic.”

There are, of course, many unknowns still, Roslyn said, and at some point there may be decisions regarding the ability to repair the building on Elm Street or whether they will be required to move to a new location. That news won’t come for a while. 

“There's been a lot of people working behind the scenes … to determine all of those things, both through the fire marshal and through our insurance companies,” said Roslyn. “So hopefully soon, we'll have a better understanding of where we go from here in terms of the building itself, but we have been told probably six to eight months before we'll be back.”

Roslyn also notes she’s thankful for a small policy they had at the office.

“We actually have a policy where we close and lock every office door when we leave for the day. And that really, I think, had an impact on the damage to the building.” 

While they are hoping to take donations to restore their pantry and storages as soon as they have room, at the moment, they are hoping that the community will support them through a GoFundMe campaign that has been set up. Or, if that isn’t for you, Roslyn said, feel free to send a check, or safely drop off a monetary donation at their temporary office at 19 Frood Rd.

“That will allow us to be strategic about what we purchase and be able to store. And then in the coming weeks, once we have a more permanent space, we may be reaching out for further items, once we know what can be saved from our office.” 

Roslyn is not only touched by the generosity of her fellow community groups and Sudbury business, but also the staff of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northeastern Ontario, 

“The resilience of the organization and getting through this,” said Roslyn, “the staff have worked so incredibly hard over the last week to make sure that our clients that rely on us can still come and see us so that we are open at 19 Frood Road. 

If you would like to contact the organisation, the staff is currently using their cell phones, but all contact information available on their website and on Facebook. “But to our clients who don't have phones, or that sort of thing can come and see us at that office.” 

If you would like to contribute to the GoFundMe for the Elizabeth Fry Society, you can find it here.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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