South Shore Sexual Health Grant Recipient Update

Each year CUA awards grants as part of its Community Investment Grant Program to recipients who create positive social and economic impact. In 2021, South Shore Sexual Health was one such recipient, and was awarded a $5,000 grant. In recognition of the upcoming Pride Festival, taking place from July 14-24, we caught up with South Shore Sexual Health Executive Director Julie Veinot to discuss the grant and its impact on their services.

Based out of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, the South Shore Sexual Health center offers just about “everything but clinical services.” Over the past few years, the supply of gender affirming gear has become one of their most popular programs.

The TransFORMATION Closet is a pay-as-you-can service that offers gender affirming gear for both youth and adults in Lunenburg and Queens counties who are unable to access it on their own. South Shore Sexual Health recently won an award for its services at the 2021 Helen and Fred Bentley Awards of Excellence, which recognize sexual health innovation and leadership across Canada. Its TransFORMATION Closet received first place, the money from which is currently helping to fund the project.

In 2021, South Shore Sexual Health applied for one of CUA’s Community Investment Grants and was awarded $5,000 to fund the TransFORMATION Closet. Julie Veinot, director at South Shore Sexual Health, explains that since then, it’s become a core service. By listening to the community, she says, the center was able to hear what people needed and incorporate that back into the program.

“The CUA funding was excellent… to make sure [the program] got legs to keep it sustainable,” she explains. The grant “was the funding that kept it going. If we hadn’t had that funding, it’s very possible that the program would have just fizzled out.”

She says she’s “ecstatic about the response” they’ve had to the program. Julie explains that as more people learned about the service, the center experienced a growth in demand.

The old adage is true, she says: “If you build it, they will come.”

Like a snowball, Julie says that what started small is rolling on its own momentum now.

“As a result of some media attention around the TransFORMATION Closet, around the time of the CUA grant, we got a $1,000 donation from someone who was so moved.”

Soon, South Shore Sexual Health hopes to expand the TransFORMATION Closet. Other recently acquired funding will help to facilitate the service throughout other centers around the province, Julie says.

“It’s starting to get a buzz around the province, so we’re very happy to fulfil these needs.”

The response from community members who are not gender diverse has also been positive, Julie says. “One thing we’ve noticed is not only are we giving these items out to folks who are gender diverse, but there’s a huge appetite for professionals and the community to learn about these items. So, we’ve incorporated gender affirming items into our education.”

The community’s receptiveness to learning about these items, she explains, “helps normalize their usage and reduce the stigma against gender diverse folk.”

Julie says the main goal of the service is “to try to reduce as many barriers as possible.” She explains that while the pandemic negatively impacted South Shore Sexual Health initially, “it also taught us to be flexible. The goal is to get this stuff to people, so if there are ways we have to be creative to make that happen, the goal is not to say no.”

Learn more about South Shore Sexual Health’s services.

Learn more about CUA’s Past Community Investment Grant Recipients.