Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mission accomplished — temporarily

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” — Mother Teresa

WHETHER you're a fan of Hillary Clinton, not at all, or you're neutral, you've at least gotta give it up for something she's said — "it takes a village".

April 14, with the help of an entire "village" of people, Helen's Pajama Party finished providing all 13 regional domestic violence shelters in Iowa with a three-month supply of new pajamas — a total of 989 pairs for women and children.

And when I say it's taken a village, that's really what it's felt like.

Throughout the year, church groups, clubs, governmental departments and individuals have held pajama parties and drives on behalf of Helen's. Melissa Kuennen, for example, is the Aquatics Program Director at the YMCA in Ankeny; she's twice held drives and collected jammies for us. 

The lovely and wonderful Melissa Kuennen

Thank you Melissa and every single one of you who have donated pajamas. Thank you for caring about victims of domestic violence and thank you for keeping faith with Helen's Pajama Party.

Meanwhile we had to have a place to store the pajamas we've been gathering. John McRoberts, landlord of the building where our offices used to be, gave us a room at no cost to store and process them. We also had to have something to store them in. Julie Dubansky with PDS generously donated hundreds of new boxes that were perfect for our use. Thanks Julie!

When we moved to our new location, we needed to find storage for our pajama stock, and Kathy and Floyd Hammer, founders of the amazing organization, Outreach, furnished storage in their warehouse and then lent us their big straight truck to haul boxes of pajamas hither and yon.  

In January Pat VanLent from the Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega, an adult women's sorority, helped me organize a tagging, sorting and packing party held, thanks to branch manager Tammy Zook, at Great Southern Bank on North Delaware in Ankeny. The bank and Phi Tau Omega provided two dozen eager workers each, and Karl Schilling, Shari Hawk, Kitte Nobel, Tiffany Allison and Bill Zook pitched in as well. 

WHO and KCCI have been generous with their coverage ever since Helen's Pajama Party began. Erin Kiernan in particular has always had a big heart for the work we do. Both stations have promoted our drives, and despite a very hectic news cycle due to late-breaking news the night of the party, Channel 13 still made it to us.

Although we packed up more than 700 pairs of pajamas, the problem was that we ran out of size extra-large — short 200 or so pairs. DMACC psychology professor, Ronn Newby, heard about our plight and offered to organize a pajama drive sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Not only did he collect 400+ pairs of pajamas, but when students donated money instead of pajamas, Ronn went to stores all over Des Moines and shopped for pajamas! What a guy, huh?

And the incomparable Roxanne Conlin, friend to all downtrodden, and savior of many, generously donated $1000 so that I could buy the sizes needed to fill in the gaps. 

An anonymous, former Iowa resident also contributed $1000 to allow me to purchase pajamas and supplies. (You'd be amazed at how many spools of ribbon we go through, and oftener than one might suppose, people donate multiples of pajama bottoms without tops, and I have to shop for suitable tops to match.)

Every pair of pajamas gets a tag tied on with pastel blue ribbon that says, "There are lots of people you've never even met who are all pulling for you!" and then there's a line for the giver to write her or his name. 

We go through thousands of these tags, and Christian Printers generously offered to print however many we need as often as we need them. Thank you!

The next step was finding a means to get the pajamas we'd packed so far delivered to the shelters. The logistics of getting multiple boxes all around the state is no small matter, and I was scratching my head as to how to accomplish it. Then I had a brainstorm (that is, after all, the name of the business Paul and I own). I thought, "Who do I know who goes back and forth from Des Moines to all points in the state?" 

State legislators!!! Ding ding ding ding!! They travel from the state capitol to their home towns every weekend the legislature is in session, so I began enlisting them as deliverers. 

  • Senator Tom Courtney delivered pajamas to Burlington 
  • Rep. Mary Lynn Wolfe delivered to the YWCA DV/SA Resource Center in Clinton which is unfortunately closing in June due to lack of funding. 
  • Senate Majority Leader, Mike Gronstal drove pajamas to Council Bluffs
  • Senator Chris Brase delivered to Muscatine 
  • Rep. Dave Dawson drove pajamas to Sioux City.
Christy Bellis took pajamas Ames, and I drove a vanful to Davenport. Sister Charla and Sister Carol, directors of the Community YWCA Domestic Violence Program in Dubuquewere so eager to get their supply of pajamas that they made a special trip to Des Moines to get them, and directors of the Fort DodgeIowa CityOskaloosa and Waverly shelters picked their pajamas up when they happened to be in Des Moines on other business.

That's where we were about March 1, but we still had the big shelter, Des Moines — needing 250 pairs — to fulfill. While I'd been arranging transportation and buying missing sizes, Ronn Newby continued to collect at DMACC, and we finally had enough in all the necessary sizes for Des Moines

But we still needed to tag, sort and pack them. Fortunately, three University of Iowa social work students, Brian Speicher, Ashley Parker, and Akaisha Blackhawk volunteered, as did Sandy Smith, the retired executive director of the Children and Families of Iowa shelter, and got the job done.

Finally, April 14 we had enough of pajamas in a full range of sizes to deliver 290 pairs (250 adult women and 40 children's) to Des Moines, meeting our goal of providing a three-month supply to every domestic violence shelter in Iowa.

Delivering 290 pairs of pajamas to the CFI DV shelter left to right: Ashley Parker, shelter director Catherine Reaman-Gerdes, me, Roxanne Conlin and Paul. Ronn Newby would have been there, but he had an emergency appendectomy the night before!

Here are the results by the numbers:

Ames: ACCESS – 33 pairs

Burlington: Burlington Area YMCA Shelter – 43 pairs
Clinton: YWCA DV/SA Resource Center – 20 pairs (shelter is closing)
Council Bluffs: Phoenix House – 85 pairs
Davenport: SafePath Survivor Resources – 90 pairs
Des Moines: Children and Families of Iowa Domestic Violence Services – 290 pairs
Dubuque: Community YWCA Domestic Violence Program – 35 pairs
Fort Dodge: Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center – 50 pairs
Iowa City: Domestic Violence Intervention Program – 65 pairs
Muscatine: Muscatine Center for Social Action – 42 pairs
Oskaloosa: Crisis Intervention Services – 65 pairs
Sioux City:  Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence – 148 pairs
Waverly: Cedar Valley Friends of the Family – 23 pairs

Total deliver = 989 pairs

And a big PS: None of this would be possible without Paul!!

1 comment:

  1. Kelly! What an enormous accomplishment! I am in awe. And I love that you got the reps to deliver - makes an impact on the centers and hopefully raises the reps awareness of need when it comes to future voting and so on. Great project!