(June 27, 2018) Catherine Read interviews Nicole Morris, Operations Manager of Women Giving Back (WGB), and Dona Dei of the Transitional Assistance Program (TAP), an arm of the Arlington Diocese Catholic Charities Prison Ministry at Loudoun ADC. These women are working to assist those who are transitioning out of prisons and shelters, and need assistance with clothing and accessories as they embark on a new journey to independence.
In the first segment Catherine discusses with Dona Dei the challenges faced by women transitioning out of prison. These women face many obstacles, including not having a home to return to, not having proper identification, not having necessary skills to land a good job and needing clothing. Many of these women lost everything they had when they went to prison, and have nothing to return to. Additionally, there are those who face addiction and substance abuse problems that prevent them from being able to move their lives forward. The TAP program is uniquely suited to work with these women in helping them reshape their lives. In partnership with Women Giving Back, TAP is able to identify the needs of each individual woman, and pair them with the services they need to get off to a good start upon re-entry to civilian life.
In the second segment Catherine speaks with Nicole Morris, Operations Manager for Women Giving Back (WGB). WGB’s mission is to support women and children in crisis, and build their confidence and self-esteem by providing great quality clothing at no cost, assisted by caring volunteers who offer personalized service and interaction. The organization was founded back in 2007 by a group of professional women, all of who were connected in some way with the local homebuilding industry. WGB was formed under HomeAid Northern Virginia as a way to supplement the great work that they do for the homeless and transitionally homeless community. WGB has grown considerably since then, and is now a 501(C)(3) nonprofit and runs a newly renovated 13,000 square foot warehouse and boutique in Sterling, VA.
WGB works with over 200 partner organizations to serve the needs of women in crisis throughout the Washington DC metropolitan area. With only 2 staff members, the organization uses over 2000 volunteers to carry out its mission. Volunteer tasks include sorting and organizing donations, providing personal shopping services to clients, driving donations to partner organizations throughout the metro area, and packaging the Bag-To-Go care packages for women who are unable to travel to the boutique.
For clients who are able to travel to the boutique in Sterling, there are volunteers who act as personal shoppers, who can help them find a variety of clothing and accessories to meet their needs. The shop is open every second Saturday of the month for current residents of local shelters, transitional housing facilities and safe houses. Women and children who are qualified by their case managers can shop free of charge and take up to 50 items on each visit.
The WGB website is a wealth of information for both clients and volunteers. The calendar lists hours of operation, along with volunteer opportunities. Morris shares that the organization was just given a grant to implement a more robust volunteer software to help better manage the different jobs and keep track of volunteer scheduling and communication. Every year they work with more and more corporate partners, who hold clothing drives, and then have their staff come into the facility and help with sorting and organizing at the end of the drive. Morris says this is a great way for a local company to give back to those in need right in their own community. The WGB website includes a detailed Donation Drive Guide for anyone interested in hosting an event.