Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Meet Deborah’s Divas!

Time for an update from Chicago’s Emergency Fund, the organization I’ll be donating 10% of my Etsy profits to this year. I’m posting some of the stories they send to supporters so you can have an idea of what impact they make in the Chicago area.

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Lashon at Home in the Courtyard at Deborah's Place

Lashon and Roxanna know what it’s like to have nowhere to go. Like every woman living in the Rebecca Johnson apartments, they were homeless before they came to Deborah’s Place. For Lashon, moving into the apartments three years ago really was coming home, “My grandmother lived in the building across the street when I was growing up, so I knew the area well.” Now, Lashon works alongside Roxanna and the rest of “Deborah’s Divas” to ensure that every woman who moves in feels that she, too, has come home.

Each of the 90, single-occupancy units in the building is small but comfortable. While the layout and size differ, each has a private bathroom and a small kitchenette, leaving enough room for a single bed, a chest of drawers, and a small table.

When a woman moves out of Deborah’s Place – always in her own time, there are no limits to how long a woman can stay here – maintenance goes through to ensure that everything is clean and in working order. That’s when the Divas get to work. “We’re the unofficial welcome crew,” says Roxanna. “We make it feel like home.”

On the day that we visited, the Divas had just finished preparing apartment 403 for a new tenant. Walking into that warm, welcoming room would make anyone smile. The light, white quilt they had chosen for the bed was turned down at the corner to reveal cheerful blue and yellow striped sheets. Pots and pans stood at the ready in the kitchen, and two jade knick-knacks perched on top of a chest of drawers caught the eye. A candle on the bookshelf promised a citrus scent, and the stripes theme continued in the bathroom with a freshly-hung shower curtain.

But without a doubt, the first thing the new tenant would notice would be the table. The napkin-wrapped silverware sat next to the new, cream-colored dishes. Everything was meticulously placed, a perfectly set table for two that promised afternoons of conversations with friends new and old.

As I looked at the Divas’ handiwork, I tried to imagine the woman who would move in. A woman who had had nothing of her own for at least two years – the time it took to move to the top of the waiting list. Living in and out of shelters, staying with friends when she could, forced to sleep on the streets when there was nowhere else to go. Until now.

Finally, finally, that woman would have somewhere to go. She would get her own keys to her own place, open the door, walk into this room, see what these women have done - and realize that that place is home.

“When you’ve been living in shelters or on the street, and then you put that key in the door and see that you already have dishes and towels, that the bed is made – that says it all,” Lashon says.

Content from the Emergency Fund website

Please, make a donation to the Emergency Fund today. Together we will make the small change that changes lives.

Donate today and your new or increased gift will be matched* by an anonymous donor!

*Double your impact! An anonymous donor is matching all new or increased gifts. That means that 100% of first-time gifts and gifts from donors who have not given since 2008 will be matched. For those who gave in 2009 or 2010, any amount above the highest annual gift amount in 2009 and 2010 will be matched.

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