The day after Claire’s boyfriend kicked her while she was holding their baby, he was nice to her. She knew then that he knew what he was doing was wrong. That Monday when he went to work, Claire packed two suitcases and a diaper bag and drove with her 10-month-old daughter to a women’s shelter. She had $300.
Claire knew she’d made the right decision because as she drove, everything was vivid and in focus. It was like she could see colors again after living in black and white.
But leaving that abusive situation was just the beginning of a long journey for her. Claire and her daughter lived, hidden, in the shelter for four weeks. When their temporary housing voucher expired, they lived with a friend of a friend until the friend’s boyfriend moved in and told Claire and her daughter to leave. Finally, they moved into a transitional housing complex for families where they had a modicum of stability, protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend, help with childcare and navigating the maze of social services.
My friends, the Reverends Susan and Hartmut Kramer-Mills have been working for seven years to create affordable, permanent housing for women like Claire. Their church in New Brunswick, NJ is a small, vibrant congregation in a historic four-story church designed to hold over one thousand people.
Together with concerned members of their congregation and community leaders, Susan and Hartmut came up with a creative solution to address the challenge of maintaining such a large building and benefit a greater social issue, namely domestic violence. The building is being converted into three spaces: a smaller sanctuary for the First Reformed Church, a multipurpose community space, and Dina’s Dwellings – 10 units of affordable housing for survivors of domestic abuse.
After years of brainstorming, conducting feasibility studies, networking, gathering community support, attending countless meetings, filling out grant applications and mountains of paperwork, the apartments are nearing completion. Ten women and their six children will move in at the beginning of next year.
These women and children have been through more than I can imagine. To survive, they’ve torn themselves away from their homes, neighborhoods, and communities. They’ve lived in hiding, sometimes living in their cars, sometimes camping on friends’ sofas. These new apartments offer them a safe, stable place to get their life back on track.
Dina’s Dwellings is conducting a Hope Chest Campaign to put together the essentials needed to begin a new home – dishes, cooking utensils, blankets, towels, and more. This welcome gift will signify a brand new start – a life without abuse.
How much would it mean to her to have a luxurious gift with a heartfelt message? How would that enhance her life?
I believe – and may you too – that drying her hands on soft, absorbent towel would counteract the negative messages she absorbed from the abuse she’s experienced. That seeing a beautiful handwoven towel when she walks into her kitchen would remind her that she is not alone.
As I talked with friends about the idea of donating towels to the women of Dina’s Dwellings, it occurred to me that you might like to join us in sending these gifts.
* Donate a towel or a portion of a towel. Click on this link and in the drop down menu you’ll see options for different donation amounts.
* Write a note for me to include in the cards that will accompany the towels, whether or not you choose to donate towards the towels. Either write your note in the “instructions to merchant” (or “instructions from buyer”) box when you complete your donation or send me an email.
Depending on how many towels are donated between now and December 21st, I will round out the donation so that every woman receives at least one towel. The goal is to give them a set of two.
The same month that Claire and her daughter moved into the transitional housing, Claire started nursing school. She’s been an ER nurse for 17 years now. She’s discovered that nursing wasn’t just a job to support her family, but something she loves. She makes a difference in people’s lives every day at work. None of this would have happened had she not been given a safe place to live 22 years ago.
Let’s help create the feeling of home and hope for the women of Dina’s Dwellings. To contribute, please click here.
photo credit: Lynne Graves