Marlene Geirsdorf continues to picket outside Service Canada's Montague office
MONTAGUE – Some want to take her to lunch, some want to give her money, and some want to buy her a car.
But Marlene Geirsdorf, who started a one woman protest here last Friday after being denied EI benefits and told to go on welfare, has become a lightning rod of controversy.
While there are those who rail against her in the comment pages of media reports, there are even more comments of encouragement, honking horns and visitors stopping by her lone vigil here to endorse her stance.
And as of Tuesday — and more than 40,000 page views on the original story about her on The Guardian website — an online campaign was launched to raise money to buy her a car.
She was denied EI benefits – she rightfully qualified for — because she wouldn’t take a job in Charlottetown (60kms away) since she had no car and there is no public transportation in the region.
“It’s a national disgrace,’’ says Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association. “This woman is a courageous individual who is standing in the line of fire and fighting for benefits that she qualified for and should be receiving.”
The burly fisherman from Pinette dropped by to visit her lone vigil Tuesday afternoon and praised her fortitude. Like many others, he tried to give her money to help her situation, but Geirsdorf refuses gratefully.
“I’m very thankful for the help, but I won’t accept,’’ she smiled in the sunshine and cold. “I’ve always gotten by on my own and I will again.”
Geirsdorf is the 30-year-old single mom who qualified for EI but was cut off because of her inability to get to Charlottetown about 45 minutes away. She has stood outside the Service Canada building with her hand made signs almost daily to bring attention to the drastic changes initiated by the federal government.
She’s been offered coffee, food, money and lots of encouragement; and was told to apply to a local donut shop by the owner just in case an opening surfaced in the future.
Meanwhile, two Ontario men have launched a fundraising site http://www.gofundme.com/1um9jk to help buy her a car.
“Canada is a great place to live, the people here are kind, generous, and we really do care for our own,” says Frank Mosey. “Some of the practices of our government work great, however, some cracks are in the system.”
Mosey says his parents are from eastern Canada and he understands the struggles and situations are different from other parts of the country.
“I understand why Marlene would not want to move or travel 60 km., she has a young son who is in school and to uproot him from home is hard on young kids. Family comes first….good for her for standing up and making a point.”
Mosey said Kelly John Rose, co-founder of Panda Robotics in Toronto, was “kind enough” to start up a fundraising page to purchase Geirsdorf a functional vehicle that will allow her travel and better opportunities for employment.
“If lots of folks donate $20, it won't take much to raise enough for an economical vehicle. We have been in touch with a local dealer that may help out and are hopeful that through social media we can bring awareness to people about some of the EI changes that have been made.”
Geirsdorf says she will continue her protest while awaiting her appeal even though the weather is planning to dip to -15C on Friday.
“I’ll wear my orange survival suit,” she said.