Thursday, March 10, 2011

International Women's Day — not so much

"Things need shaking up politically, culturally." — Daniel Craig 

TUESDAY WAS International Women's Day. Late that night I came across a short video starring Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench that focuses on the plight of women all over the world.

I'm hoping you'll watch it. I'm not sure I've seen anything that says so much in such a succinct, meaningful way. When I say short, I mean it's two minutes. 

While we're on the topic of women, Helen's Pajama Party is holding its annual pajama party on Tuesday, March 22. The purpose is to sort, tag and pack new pajamas for domestic violence shelters in Iowa as well as have a good time as we affirm that women's lives, health and happiness are worth fighting for. 

For anyone who doesn't know what Helen's is, go to

What: Helen's Pajama Party to Protect Women
When: Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 PM
Where: Hotel Fort Des Moines

Cost: $8 for adults, $4 for 18 to 6 year-olds, ages 5 and under free
There will be food, music, fun stuff to do and drawings throughout the night for prizes. You get to throw your name in the hat once for every nightgown or pair of pajamas you donate that night, i.e., bring three pairs and you triple your chances of winning a prize. Those of you who attended last year know that we had manicures, massages and makeovers happening all evening.

Here are some easy things you can do to make a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence in Iowa:

1) Come to the party if you're able
2) Bring snacks and a pair of pajamas to donate if you can
3) Forward this email to lots of friends

PS: I got a message from the Avon Foundation in New York City yesterday asking me about the range of new sleep wear we accept. I immediately called back. The upshot is there's a possibility that we may get of whole bunch of new nightgowns and house dresses from them. I asked how she had heard of us, and she said, "I don't know. Someone sent me an email." So whoever is responsible, thank you, thank you.

Below are some excerpts from letters from shelter directors saying in their own words how a simple thing like new pajamas can make a difference:

Recently a former client brought us three new pairs of pajamas. She told us that, for her, the most precious thing was the pair of pajamas she got that first night here at New Beginnings. She has put that pair in her drawer and wears them only one week a year because she doesn’t want to wear them out too quickly. She wears them on the anniversary of what she calls, "My first dream."
     — Sister Charla Executive Director of New Beginnings, Dubuque

Women feel so good when they get a new pair of jammies when they come into shelter. Usually the days before she gets here are very unpleasant to say the least. I think that any time we can create a sense that someone cares about them by presenting them with something personal such as jammies we have started them on their new journey in a very caring way……..their positive response says it all.
     — Margaret Sanders Executive Director of the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, Sioux City

Thank you so much for this great project.  The women who come to shelter feel so welcomed when we are able to provide them with new pajamas!
     — Mary J. Ingham Executive Director of the Crisis Intervention Service, Mason City

Thank you so much for collecting PJs for DV shelters so that we may share them with the women who come to stay with us. They are always thrilled and sometimes moved to tears when they are given their brand new pajamas upon arrival at the Phoenix House. Thank you for helping women know they are wonderful and special.
     — Diane McKee Executive Director of Phoenix House, Council Bluffs

Thank you so much for your help. Our residents always get so tickled to have new sleepwear when they enter shelter.
     — Ruby McGraw Shelter Program Director of the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter and Sexual Assault Program, Waterloo

The first night a woman comes to stay with us, we invite her upstairs to what we call Pajama Dreamland to browse and choose a pair of pajamas that fit her best. We explain that by "fit" we aren't just talking about the size. We mean her dreams and hopes for a new life.

Today I took a newly arrived victim upstairs to pick out her pair. With eyes sparkling for the first time since walking through our door, she told me that if it were just the fit in terms of size, it would be easy, but considering what we asked she said, "Suddenly I have so many possibilities. Pajamas with flowers — I can plant my own, and no one will stomp them dead. Pajamas with soft colors — I can dream and know my dreams have a chance. Pajamas with puppies — I've always wanted my own dog, and now I could have one. Pajamas with lace and bows — I'm a woman and maybe I can learn to be proud of that. Pajamas with clouds — I can go to sleep and not be afraid." 

With so many choices, I asked her if one pair would be enough. She said, "To have one sweet dream is more than anything I have ever known. One is enough."
     — Sister Charla Executive Director of New Beginnings, Dubuque

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