A Love Offering to Women and Girls ~ Hands Across the Community LifeBridge and the Shanga Women

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My spirit carried itself into the office of Alan Mathis, CEO of LifeBridge Community Services where I teach Art for the Urban Scholars Program. My friend KING has a program in Texas called Volunteering While Black and they installed portable sinks in neighborhoods highly populated by unhoused people. My intention was to distribute water in the community. We were in the middle of dealing with Covid-19 and decided water bottles would be the safest way to help. I ran a few ideas past Alan that day including my wish to help women get feminine hygiene products as I had learned of the struggle for many and since then it was heavy on my heart.

I was also forming the Shanga Bridgeport Women’s Guild at this time. In learning the history of my city, Bridgeport, CT, I understand that women play a large part in our deep and inspiring past. I wanted to get the incredible women I know, who don’t necessarily know one another, together to impact our community as a collective. We needed a safe space for women of color where we could discuss and support one another through the reckoning of Black culture in America while trying to survive Covid-19.

Our meetings began with the Shanga Women and my work began through the summer at LifeBridge. One of the many ideas I ran past Alan during our initial meeting was to give feminine hygiene products to unhoused women. I had seen a video about the struggles of women with nowhere to lay safely when they have cramps, having to use public bathrooms to bathe and use clothes for pads and tampons. The health risks, the fear and the idea that hygiene products are a luxury were all a revelation to me. Alan brought this idea to Dawn Hatchett who has worked by his side as Executive Vice President & COO of LifeBridge Community Services. Alan suggested that we call the program ‘Hands Across the Community’, and so it was!

They decided to support this vision and followed through by offering to work through six churches and community organizations to help unhoused women and girls have access to feminine hygiene products. They invested, found donors and supported me in connecting the churches to LifeBridge so we honor the need for minimal engagement during the pandemic while still being of service to the community.

The Shanga women designed a logo and suggested churches. They got cards and information to insert into our bags since October is Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Now women who receive these bags will have an opportunity to self exam their breasts and have access to help from violent situations. We joined forces with LifeBridge employees and packed six hundred bags.

Ebenezer Gospel Assembly, Amazing Grace Church Inc, New Vision International Ministries, Neighborhood Church Black Rock, Bethel A.M.E., and Shanga Bridgeport Women’s Guild who extended our donation to the Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program Incorporated (GBAPP). All of whom extend their services to the unhoused members of our communities in addition to those in need.

This is for women and girls. This is so that girls don’t have to miss school, women don’t have to miss work and risk unemployment, the unhoused can have an opportunity to feel seen and supported. This is to take a little weight off the shoulders of women and girls. It is a program that LifeBridge will continue as they will now provide feminie hygiene items through their Diaper Bank operations. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with acquiring feminine hygiene products contact Marlene Kinchen at 203-368-5634 to learn more. Donations to this effort are also welcomed and appreciated.

Thank you Alan, Dawn and our LifeBridge community for following through and embracing the vision. Thank you to Shanga Bridgeport Women’s Guild for doing the work to support this vision from planning, packing through distribution. Thank you to Ebenezer Gospel Assembly, Amazing Grace Church Inc, New Vision International Ministries, Neighborhood Church Black Rock, Bethel A.M. E and GBAPP for coming together with a collective spirit of love and service.

I am now the founder of The Shanga Bridgeport Women’s Guild which is a network of women who respond to community needs across Bridgeport, CT through broad collaborations, limited partnerships and the efforts of local stakeholders. Our goal is to enhance the lives of Bridgeport, CT citizens by heightening awareness of the resources and connections that will uplift and empower them in their daily lives. You can follow us at The Shanga Bridgeport Women’s Guild Community on Facebook.

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