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History of Bridges

Over the course of providing life-changing services for over 30 years, we have seen countless inspiring and courageous women graduate from our programs and continue to build safe, fulfilling lives for themselves. Bridges wouldn’t exist today without the dedication of the Founding Mothers and all those who have worked with us throughout our vibrant history.

The history of Bridges featuring the founding mothers

Bridges for Women was established in Victoria in 1988 as an employment training program for women with a history of trauma and abuse. Initially a three-year pilot project, Bridges was incorporated as a non-profit society in 1993 and continues to provide programming and counselling services for women overcoming the effects of trauma.

Bridges for Women has been recognized for our unique and transformative programming. 

2017 – Chancellor’s Community Recognition Award from Royal Roads University 

2005 – Quality of Life Award from The Community Social Planning Council 

1999 – BC Building a Safer Futures Award   

The Founding Mothers

We acknowledge the five Founding Mothers who had the courage and wisdom necessary to fill the gap in women’s services to support women’s growth and transformation in healing and economic security.

History of Bridges founding mother Arlene

Arlene Wells

Arlene Wells helped to found Bridges and served as its first program coordinator from 1988 to 1996. In the early 1990s, she worked with a team of women to write Building Bridges, a manual written “so that others could learn from our experience”. Arlene joined the Bridges for Women Society Board in autumn 1998 and served as co-chair for several years.

Founding mother Joan

Joan Krisch

Joan Krisch is truly the mother of Bridges. Joan had a passion for improving the lives and the futures of women and was so sure of the vision for Bridges right from the start. She was pragmatic and discerning, a woman of action, and she took the lead in writing the initial proposal and gathering strong women to serve as Bridges advisors. Joan was the program administrator at Bridges from 1988 until she left due to illness. Joan died in 1994. 

History: Founding mother Katie

Dr. Katie Cooke

Dr. Katie Cooke chaired the Bridges Advisory Committee in the early years and later helped form the Bridges for Women Society in 1992, as well as serving as a mentor and role model for Bridges Women. 

She was the first president of the Canadian Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, wrote the Canadian Child Care Task Force report, and received Lifetime Achievement Award through the Victoria Women of Distinction. She died in 2003.

Founding mother Diane

Diane Erickson

Diane Erickson was a consultant on the original Bridges funding proposal and advocated for ongoing research and evaluation that would demonstrate the effectiveness of the Bridges approach. She brought to Bridges her experience as a policy planner in government and in the private sector as well as her passion for justice for women. She was a member of the Bridges Advisory Committee and was the first Chair of the Bridges for Women Society Board. 

founding mother Kathryn Ogg

Kathryn Ogg

Kathryn Ogg helped to research and prepare the initial funding proposal for Bridges in 1988. Kathryn worked on women’s employment projects with Joan and Arlene in the 1980’s. She served as assistant administrator from 1988-91, Employment Preparation Facilitator from 1988 to 2000, and Work Placement Coordinator until 2002. She is a strong feminist, a proud single parent (and grandmother) who advocates for positive change in women’s lives. 

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