Ben Stiller lends support to Bonavista Peninsula group raising money for women's shelter

A community group on the Bonavista Peninsula is one step closer to being able to afford its own women's shelter.

SaltWater Community Association hopes to raise $50,000 in telethon

A scenic view of a community on a harbour front with boats in the water and houses in the background.
The SaltWater Community Association is pushing forward with its effort to build a women's shelter for the region. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

A community group on the Bonavista Peninsula is one step closer to setting up a local women's shelter.

The SaltWater Community Association has been pushing for months to bring the service to the area where, as it stands, women fleeing domestic violence situations have to travel hundreds of kilometres to St. John's, Marystown, Gander or Corner Brook for safe haven. 

The group is hoping to raise $50,000 through a telethon Thursday evening — and the effort is getting some high-profile help. 

Actor and director Ben Stiller, who is floating throughout the Bonavista Peninsula this month filming the Apple TV+ show Severance,  spoke about the situation in a video message, posted online Sunday, in which he called on people to help support the shelter plan.

Laura Sheppard, chairperson of the SaltWater Community Association and an organizer of the ongoing fundraising effort, told CBC News it took a little inside help to get the message through.

"We had a local resident who was working on the set and he was able to get Ben Stiller's crew a message from the association," she said.

"Ben Stiller got the message and he was happy to help and we were thrilled when the video came through. We were so happy. We were trying to get him for a couple of days, trying to get messages to him." 

The need for a women's shelter on the Bonavista Peninsula comes at a time when resources are stretched thin and demand is at critical levels. 

In November, Michelle Greene, executive director of Iris Kirby House in St. John's, told CBC News her organization was forced to turn away 267 people between then and the previous April.

Sheppard said women and children on the Bonavista Peninsula have to travel about the same distance, about a three-hour drive. 

"The whole peninsula is very underserved and in desperate need of a shelter," she said. 

"We have a lot of people that need this."

Raising the money

The telethon fundraiser will run live Thursday evening with a number of celebrity guests offering their help. 

Shaun Majumder, Mark Critch, the Ennis Sisters and more have signed on for the 90-minute broadcast on Eastlink and Rogers TV. 

Filmmaker Roger Maunder and his local film company Up Sky Down Films is producing the whole thing.

"It's just amazing how the community always comes to help out. I'm always blown away by that and I'm so proud of this place," Maunder said. 

The live show can also be seen on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show