Pubdate: Wed, 08 Apr 2015
Source: Sentinel Review (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Woodstock Sentinel Review
Author: Heather Rivers
Page: A3

'We've done the best we can'

Bender awaits sentencing, closes Godiva's

It was an experience to remember.

While awaiting sentencing on charges of selling marijuana to his
customers, Jim Bender, owner of the controversial Woodstock landmark
known as Lady Godiva's Adult Emporium on Dundas Street, closed the
doors of his shop and moved his family to St. Williams to run Cyclone
Gas and Variety.

"I want to thank everybody for their huge support. It was an awesome
experience," Bender said. "(The move) was an opportunity to take care
of Jayden. I couldn't do that here."

Woodstock police charged Bender with drug trafficking in January 2014
after officers executed a search warrant at the Dundas Street
business, known for selling drug paraphernalia.

Bender, 50, garnered media attention last year after claiming he sold
marijuana from his Woodstock store only to support his severely
autistic son, Jayden Bender, after provincial funding was cut for
respite care.

In mid-April 2014, the owner of Lady Godiva's pleaded guilty to
several possession and trafficking charges, calling his actions "the
stupidest thing I've ever done."

But now the couple hope the move will help Bender, who was diagnosed
with malignant melanoma in 2006 and received repeated radiation
treatments, avoid jail time so he can help his wife, Angela Sjaarda,
care for their son. Jayden requires around-the-clock care.

"We closed the store, and there is no longer the opportunity for Jim
to sell marijuana to the people of the community," said Sjaarda.
"We've also done the best we can to ensure Jayden's future - coming
together as a family to work and look after him."

While funding was restored, the couple has been unable to find a
respite worker to assist them in caring for 19-year-old Jayden.

In their new business, the location has an area where Jayden can stay
and be monitored while the couple works in the store and gas bar.

The couple opened Lady Godiva's in 1996 in a former beauty salon on
Light Street, and sold sex toys, videos, lingerie and gag gifts.

"When we first opened, we had numerous ladies with pink hair come in,"
Sjaarda said.

They moved to the larger store across the road on Dundas Street in
1999, and added bongs, pipes and body jewelry to their list of goods
for sale.

Several years ago, they briefly opened a second shop known as The
Ganga Tree but closed that location about a year later.

Known as both environmental and marijuana activists - Bender ran for
both mayor and city councillor, campaigned federally as an independent
and ran twice federally for the Marijuana Party - the couple has been
involved in many initiatives, including several 4/20 celebrations,
including one that drew hundreds of participants to the downtown core.

"It drew so many people the road (Dundas Street) became closed,"
Bender said.

Bender will return to the Woodstock courthouse on June 2.
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