Women Helping Women partners with The Boutique to provide dressy clothing ensembles
October 3, 2016
When you need to look good for a job interview, a wedding, a night out, it’s not enough just to have nice clothes to wear. As any woman knows, it’s all about how each piece coordinates with all the others. For women trying to make a new life after they’ve been trafficked or prostituted or homeless, it’s doubly hard—even when they are able to find decent clothing, it’s a daunting task to achieve that pulled-together look.
That’s what Doreen DeBoer, president of All God’s People, was hearing from people who were coming to the organization’s distribution sites—the free clothing they get there is wonderful, but it’s hard to put the pieces together to make an outfit work. So DeBoer, a woman of faith who thrives on a worthy challenge, created a special program called The Boutique.
Along with clothing items, foods, toiletries, haircuts and other freebies, the under-resourced also can get matched ensembles suitable for work or dressy occasions. All God’s People maintains a south side warehouse where people can “shop” throughout the week, but once a month, 40 volunteers bring the goods to a plaza at the corner of State and Van Buren streets.
“It doesn’t matter the temperature or conditions,” DeBoer said, “we set up a store for 500 to 700 people. Everything is given away; nothing is actually sold. We bring in The Boutique on rolling carts and tables. It’s a respect thing for them that they get to pick the clothes they like.”
With much respect for the work DeBoer is doing, Women Helping Women (WHW) has chosen The Boutique as the charity partner for its 2016 Mix-and-Mingle on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Lloyd’s Chicago.
An after-hours networking group hosted by the women attorneys of Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., WHW offers professional women the opportunity to build their businesses and participate in charitable service at the same time. Over wine and hors d’oeuvres, each Mix-and-Mingle highlights a different nonprofit agency serving women or women and their children and invites attendees to come alongside them in practical ways.
Women who attend the Nov. 3 event are encouraged to bring new or gently used clothing of any size—pants, dresses, skirts, jackets, vests, blouses, shells, etc.—plus shoes, boots, scarves, jewelry and purses. If possible, whole outfits can be brought already assembled.
DeBoer will be on hand to talk about All God’s People and The Boutique. She will be introduced by her niece, Elizabeth Osborne, an attorney with Chuhak & Tecson who remembers how these outreaches were inspired.
“Years ago when I was little, my aunt and uncle and cousins would go downtown and bring brown paper bags with food to hand out to people on Lower Wacker Drive,” Osborne said. “Over the years, people found out what she was doing and started giving her more stuff to take down there.
“It just kept growing, but it’s so personal. She knows everybody by name. For her, helping goes beyond seeing people every month just to give them clothes and food. She builds ongoing relationships with the people who come.”
That includes hundreds of homeless and under-resourced persons, but The Boutique also partners with Reclaim 13, an organization that rescues and brings healing to sex-trafficked children, and New Name, an organization that reaches out to women in prostitution.
“A girl who came in last week was just seven when she was first trafficked, and now she’s 15,” DeBoer said. “It just breaks your heart. She’s a sweet girl; she wanted clothes for church.”
Osborne appreciates that DeBoer likes to say she won’t give out clothing she wouldn’t wear herself.
“She wants to boost a sense of dignity in everyone,” Osborne said. “All of the volunteers really care about that.”
Women Helping Women is unique in the way it boosts professional camaraderie, Osborne said.
“When you get together with a group of women with a spirit of generosity behind it, you come in the door already feeling good,” she said. “It’s a nice backdrop for building business.
“I think this event in particular will have an especially personal feel to it. Chuhak & Tecson participated in the September distribution at State and Van Buren, one of the biggest ever for All God’s People, and we’re going to be displaying photos from that.”
If you would like to receive an invitation to Mix-and-Mingle, please contact Jane LaGrassa at (312) 201-3447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.