Friday, September 30, 2011

Women's Tea

A few years ago I was reading a book about humanity and how we're wired - why we do what we do, why we want what we want. The book began with a story from the liberation of the concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen in Germany. The story came from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was one of the first British soldiers in the camp.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wantering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

This story forever impacted the way I think about service and meeting the needs of people. We as humans want love. We want to be acknowledged. We don't want to be just another number.

The Stewpot, with the help of other agencies, does an incredible job of meeting the physical needs of people by making food, clothing, and medical treatment accessible. What I also love about The Stewpot is the emphasis on the humanity of the people it serves. Throughout the year there are concerts, birthday parties, talent shows, and movie days.

In December we will the annual Women's Holiday Tea. The tea began in 2000 to reach homeless women who were less likely to access services (the majority of people served are male). Low self-image affects many of the women experiencing homelessness. Each year there is a guest speaker and representatives from other social service agencies in the area. But the great part? A fashion show and gift bags filled with makeup, perfume, jewelry, and other items that become a luxury when you're on the street. If you're a lady reading this you know how great you feel when you get a new lipstick or a new necklace! You feel fresh and beautiful. You feel confident. You feel valuable.

We'll do it again this year! And, as always, could use your help to make this day extra special for the ladies we serve. Currently we are in need of:

            • Small perfumes/perfume samples
            • Hotel soaps and toiletries
            • Hotel sewing kits/small sewing kits
            • Hair ornaments and costume jewelry
            • Purse sized brushes and pocket mirrors

Donations are accepted Monday-Friday, 8AM-4PM. Just pull into our parking garage (1822 Young Street)!

*Quote from:

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