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Laundry basket of goodness
Photos and Story by James Hill
Women facing domestic violence will have a hand up as they escape their dire circumstances and venture out on their own.
For the fifth straight year the Sylvania Women’s Resource Center, with the assistance of El Programa Hispano, is sponsoring the Laundry Basket Project. The project solicits donations of non-toxic and environmentally safe household cleaning and personal hygiene products to be distributed to women who have escaped domestic violence, to help them set up a safe household for themselves and their children.
The cause starts in earnest around the Thanksgiving holiday and continues until finals week in December. Students from the Women’s Resource Center will stuff the baskets with collected items and deliver them to El Programa Hispano that week. The students usually fill 50 baskets, but are hoping for more this year.
"These are situations people in our community and students on campus deal with all the time," said Deborah Evind, Women’s Resource Center coordinator. "Part of the message is that we have people living in poverty all the time and it’s not an accident."
Evind and her staff said that people in need often have jobs, but they are making minimum wage and can barely support one person, much less an entire family. Plus, the food stamps they may receive often aren’t used for personal hygiene products.
What is needed
Non-toxic and environmentally safe laundry soap, dish soap, toilet tissue, all-purpose cleaner, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, deodorant, sanitary pads and diapers. And if bringing goods to the campus is a bit too burdensome, faculty or staff can donate $35 (tax-deductible) – the cost of filling a basket for a family of four.
April Castillo and Natasha St. Peter are coordinating the logistics of the project. Castillo is in her second year at PCC and is working toward an associate’s degree in early childhood development. A co-leader of the student parent club, Castillo said she joined the WRC to be more involved. Working on the laundry basket project gave her an opportunity to help student parents. She plans to be a teacher and to help educate other teachers about the challenges that student parents face.
"Around the holiday time people want to help others but all their money goes toward spending on toys," Castillo said. "Toys are great but these people need other things. They have dirty clothes or can’t wash their hands with soap and they get sick. There are other uses for their money than just toys. The faculty should start this with their students and make them aware that there are people who don’t have basic necessities in our community."
St. Peter is in her second year at PCC as well. She is a student adviser for the center and works with the feminist majority club. She is working on her degree in women’s studies and hopes to be a documentary filmmaker some day to shed light on women’s issues.
"This is dear to my heart," said St. Peter. "When (women) are brave enough to leave, I want to do whatever I can to help out. We believe everyone should have access to healthy products."
She said the project is critical because low income and poor families often do not have the money to buy basic cleaning and hygiene products. When the choice is between feeding your children or washing clothes – children’s bellies always win. Some women are fortunate enough to receive limited public support with food stamps. Unfortunately, food stamps cannot be used to purchase non-food items.
"They need help and our support," Castillo added. "As a woman, I want to help other women who really need this."
Since 1982, El Programa Hispano has provided a wide array of social services to low-income Latinos in the Portland metro area. Its offerings include domestic violence and sexual assault counseling, mental health, addiction and anti-poverty services, low income taxpayer support, skill building, health and safety promoters programs, outreach to elderly Latinos and community leadership development.
The Sylvania Women’s Resource Center upholds the principle of promoting wellness in individuals, families, the community, and our planet. Toxic chemicals are found in most household cleaning and personal hygiene products.