Every month Melissa Ward, the leader of a monthly nutrition group at the Downtown Women’s Center, takes bags of toiletries she has collected from her own house and from her friends to hand out to the women.
She receives a $100 monthly grant from Cooportunity, a community food co-op, with which she buys healthy snacks and organic fruit to hand out to the women as well.
But other than that, she didn’t have much more she could give them.
“One day I was just getting my daily email from Nextdoor.com,” Ward said. “I thought I should see if anybody has clothing they want to donate, as I was going to be going to the center soon.” So Ward posted on the website saying she would appreciate donations and that she would be happy to pick them up from peoples’ homes. Little did she know what the response to her post would be.
“I thought three or four people might donate,” Ward said, “but I was flooded with offers.” Over a period of five days Ward collected 50 bags of donations, as well as $50 cash, from more than 30 donors.
Ward said she has a smaller car so it was a good thing that one of the first responders to her post, a local realtor, offered to drive her and all the donations down to the Women’s Center.
Ward said one of the best things about the experience was connecting with the women of Santa Monica through this cause.
“All these women who I’d never connected with … I have a lot of friends but they are not necessarily in Santa Monica,” Ward said. “But now these women know it’s an ongoing thing and they have a place they can donate all year round. And I have connected with them in that way.”
Ward said their are women who have expressed a desire to go down and tour the center, as well as a desire to meet each other.
“Having an informal group here in Santa Monica, one group come together from Nextdoor to help homeless women, that’s really something people care about,” she said.
Ward said that whether or not they are homeless, the women in Santa Monica can relate to the women at the center.
“Homeless women, we all can relate to that no matter what our situations,” Ward said. “The women who responded to me are women who are like me, and everybody in between. I think the common denominator was ‘What if we were homeless?’ Wondering what it would be like to take a shower and not have some privacy. Carting your stuff around and eating donated food. Those women are functioning pretty well but we all want to work together to make their lives better.”
And as far as how the women at the center responded to the donations, Ward said they were beside themselves.
“They were so excited. Just over the top thrilled,” Ward said.
“We came in the middle of breakfast and they dropped their food. ‘I don’t want to miss my shopping,’ they said. They call it shopping. But they don’t have to pay for anything.”
Ward said the women she’s spoken to want to continue donating on an ongoing bases and maybe even volunteer at the center.
“And that’s great because it’s a place where you can actually get involved and make a difference,” she said. “Personally I’m so proud of the women of Santa Monica for coming together like this.”