A sanctuary for women.
Despite one side of her face being paralyzed, Charlotte Shipmaker had a beautiful smile, and the volunteers and staff at the Upper Room Mission had occasion to witness it regularly for almost 30 years.
Staff don’t know much about her life before they met her, except that she’d been a foster child, that she hadn’t had an easy upbringing, and that her struggle with addictions began early on.
If you ask about her, people will say they remember her smile. Despite all of this, she smiled. She was “special” and “sweet.” Near the end she couldn’t walk and got around by sitting in the back of a grocery cart pulled by her boyfriend. In her mid-forties and unable to take care of herself, she was in Kelowna, getting help at a treatment centre. But she missed home—Vernon and her friends and the fluorescent lit dining room and laughter of the Upper Room Mission.
So, Charlotte left. The night she ran away, she was hit and killed by a vehicle on the side of the highway.
Two years later, in 2014, the Upper Room Mission was creating an outreach program that would give the female clientele a warm, safe place to spend time during the day. Mission outreach worker Bev Henke was thinking about what to call it, and she saw Charlotte’s face, and her beautiful smile.
So, this place where women can come to feel safe, watch a movie, make a craft, get looked after by a nurse, do yoga, have a snack and maybe a laugh—it’s called Charlotte’s Place.