For women victimized by domestic violence, the decision to remove themselves, and their children, from an unsafe environment, can be a difficult choice to make and follow through with.

It’s common for women and children fleeing violent situations to leave with little more than the clothes they're wearing.

For those arriving at the YWCA's Sheriff King emergency shelter they’re greeted by volunteers including a friendly, energetic senior who helps the families select donated items for their wardrobe.

After being given time to settle in, the families are taken to Chappie's Closet where volunteers like Ella Hay assists each client in selecting what she needs.

Ella says it's a rewarding way to spend her days.

“You know they are people that really appreciate what's here and who do need all the programs,” says Ella.  “I'm just here in Chappie's Closet.  It’s kind of an outing for them.”

When Megan Zimmerman volunteers at Chappie's Closet she usually works with Ella.  Megan says Ella has a wonderful way of making the women and children feel comfortable.

“She exudes a lot of just love and care and genuine interest in people that we're working with,” says Megan. “That's inspiring to me when we're here together.”

Jean Dunbar is the director of family violence prevention for the YWCA.  Dunbar recognizes the value of what Ella does for the shelter’s new arrivals.

“That one smile, that one interaction that you have with a woman that's in such a distressful situation can make all the difference in the world,” says Dunbar. “It just can be that 'Hi, how are you?' that actually makes her welcome here.”

For both Ella and Megan, volunteering is about helping women and children cope with very difficult circumstances.  Their role also allows them to establish relationships with the clients and their fellow volunteers.

“You meet some nice, good people who are interested in helping others,” says Ella.

“Working with her (Ella) just kind of brings that element of fun, of humour,” says Megan.  “I always tell her at 74, she's spunkier than most 30 year olds I know.”

For giving her time to help brighten the lives of women and children who are facing immense challenges, Ella Hay is this week's Inspiring Albertan.