LONDON, ONT. -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region back in the spring, the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) began to see an increase in women reaching for help.

"I know that this is a crisis and what we want to do is make sure the women and children that need our help are here," says Megan Walker the executive director of LAWC.

Walker says the numbers were up by 28 per cent, but she knows the true number is actually higher than that. "That’s not a true or accurate picture because women who can’t call are not represented in any statistic."

As the pandemic continues the centre prepares for further increases in its numbers, but what’s made it challenging is the lack of fundraising dollars and the recent loss of a significant amount of federal funding.

However, Shoppers Drug Mart has stepped up with its Shoppers Love You campaign which focuses on women’s health. For the month of October, 22 stores in the city will be fundraising for LAWC.

"They are relying on us and people in our community to support them,” says Adam Aasen, pharmacist and store owner of Shoppers at Wonderland and Fanshawe.

"They have increased costs, the cost of PPE and the cost of additional equipment to serve customers and they’ve also experienced a massive uptake in calls, so we are trying our best to help them and help improve access in our community."

Walker says the fundraising campaign couldn’t have come at a better time especially because she expects numbers to climb when the pandemic is over.

"There will be an onslaught of women who need extraordinary levels of help because of what they’ve had to endure at home, so we are preparing for that as well and we’ve identified we need another staff member."

Walker says the campaign will help the centre get those extra supports in place - supports she says are critical in helping women reach out in safe and confidential manner.

"We are going to change lives of women and girls we are going to save lives and we are going to them hope."