'Mardi Bras' parties collect underwear and hygiene items for women
Because new underwear is one of the most needed and least donated clothing item for homeless women, Transitions and Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and North Idaho (VOA) team up for a third year to invite people to throw "Mardi Bras" parties four weeks before, four weeks after or on Fat Tuesday, which is March 5 this year.
On Fridays from Feb. 15 to March 15, those who hold parties in church basements, homes, book clubs or businesses drop off donations at VOA, 525 W. 2nd Ave. There is 10-minute parking outside and staff will help carry items.
In 2018, there were 32 Mardi Bras parties. Those parties raised $3,740, 17,868 tampons, 1,350 bras and 1,776 pairs of underwear.
"It's a way for people to engage their friends in learning about how homelessness affects local women," said Jon Carollo, development director at VOA.
Organizers invite staff from VOA, which runs the Hope House shelter for women, or Transitions, which has the Women's Hearth day programs for women.
"The gifts promote dignity for women through the year," he said.
Donations also include hats, coats, mittens and reading glasses.
Jon said both Hope House and Transitions are also providing new housing to help women move from poverty and homelessness into homes, education and jobs.
In a four-story building with a ground-floor shelter for 80, VOA plans to build 60 affordable apartments downtown for people experiencing homelessness. Currently Hope House has 36 shelter beds. It also has up to 20 beds for women discharged from hospitals.
"Once the new shelter is built, we will convert Hope House to affordable housing," Jon said.
In October 2018, Transitions completed 24 affordable houses in the Home Yard Cottages on the yard of the Transitional Living Center on North Hemlock.
"At the Women's Hearth on W. 2nd downtown, we could not consistently meet some of their needs until we started doing Mardi Bras," said Sarah Lickfold, development director.
Lack of personal items leads to discomfort, so to be able to offer new underwear provides "a little cleanliness and dignity that is a blessing every woman deserves," she said.
The Women's Hearth served 1,300 women in 2018, helping women find housing by providing access to phones, computers and resources.
The Women's Hearth is a community center that offers responsible renter classes to help with budgeting, tenant rights and landlord relations. It also has a knitting group, art and art therapy classes, a housing case manager and other classes and groups.
"Some women come, find housing and we don't see them again. Others come back and volunteer to give back," Sarah said.
For information, call 688-1104 (Jon) or 328-6702 (Sarah), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree,March, 2019