A new non-profit society will help women in need and keep the memory of Jessica Illes alive.
Mittens for Kittens was created by her mom Vicky Illes and her sister Natalie and operates out of their Mission home.
Volunteers, all family and friends so far, put together care packages for women at transition houses in Mission and Abbotsford. Inside the bags are toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm), a set of pyjamas or track pants, shaver, facecloth, T-shirt, knitted slippers, mittens and little treats. There’s also a small note attached to each bag with kind and encouraging words.
“It’s something we can do as a family to help out women and help take care of them,” said Vicky. The women have fun putting the packages together and knowing they are making a difference. Even Jessica’s nine-year-old daughter helps deliver the care packages.
The first packages were dropped off in Mission in August, and this month Mittens for Kittens is expanding to include the transition house in Abbotsford for women. Eventually, they would like to be able to reach out to women in Maple Ridge, and Chilliwack too.
“There was a time when my daughter would go to a transition home and this is something I would give her,” said Vicky.
Jessica’s life was cut short at the age of 23. She had been involved with the wrong crowd and was associated with gangs and drugs. She was also in an abusive relationship, says her family, and she was constantly struggling to find the straight road. In August 2009, she was murdered in her Abbotsford home. Nobody has been charged in connection with her death and the case is still under investigation.
She wasn’t always struggling and Vicky remembers a happy, bright, young girl who excelled in preschool and loved to laugh. Everything changed when she was hit by a vehicle as she crossed the street when she was four years old. In addition to broken bones, bumps and bruises, she also suffered a head injury.
It was a miracle she survived, but was never the same. Jessica endured school with tutors and educational consultants, and she was kept busy with extracurricular activities, like Brownies, swimming, and horseback riding.
Life was not easy, and Vicky and Natalie want to do their part and help others get out of abusive relationships.
“You don’t have to stick around,” said Natalie.
Vicky hopes the care packages will make the recipients more comfortable, allowing them to make better decisions in their lives.
To learn more about Mittens for Kittens, and to donate, visit mittensforkittenssociety.com.