As the news relays another variant to add to the feelings of loss and uncertainty during a global pandemic, the Abby’s House community provides moments of joy during the holiday season. As we celebrate many holidays during the November, December, and January months, the women and children of Abby’s House know the community will come together to offer support, warmth, and hope.
On a cold day in December, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office arrived in the Abby’s House parking lot, bringing dozens of staff, 100 new warm winter coats, dozens of socks, and a special guest—none other than Smiley, the WooSox mascot. Abby’s House staff, volunteers, residents, and guests were outside to greet and welcome the Sherriff’s office.
Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis spoke at the event, saying Abby’s House was a favorite stop of the annual coat drive. Unlike years past, the coats were purchased from donations, instead of received through drop boxes placed throughout the Worcester County community. While Covid caused the change in donations to occur, the occasion still brought the community together in the spirit of giving. A resident even exclaimed when selecting her new coat, “It’s always Christmas when the Sheriff comes to town.”
The event offered a wonderful opportunity to express thanks and gratitude as well as take great photos, but Abby’s House always goes the extra mile needed to ensure women are offered dignity and choices. Later that week, Abby’s House set up the coats in the multi-purpose room, part of the Annette Rafferty Women’s Empowerment Center. The room was designed to offer a boutique shopping experience for every woman who wanted a winter coat, with their Advocate on hand to offer suggestions, compliments, and support. From start to finish, Abby’s House aims to provide dignity and welcome every woman who enters, living up to the values of hospitality and women’s self-determination. To show the community how Abby’s House lives these values, we invite you to take a walk in a resident’s shoes on this winter coat shopping day.
A woman steps off the elevator, coming down two floors from her apartment to the Annette Rafferty Women’s Center, where she is greeted by Abby’s House staff and the smell of warm hot cocoa wafting through the air, which smells sweet despite her mask. As she waits for her 12:20 p.m. appointment times (appointment times courtesy of the pandemic), she is given a cup of cocoa and chooses from an assortment of cookies. Taking a seat at one of the large tables in the room, a woman can enjoy a soothing sip of their drink, and a special sugary bite of a cookie, while chatting away with friends and acquaintances that live at the Shelter or one of Abby’s House 3 supportive housing properties in downtown Worcester. After enjoying a few moments of comfort in the women’s center, the woman is called in for their personalized appointment.
Those few steps past the commercial kitchen lead into the multipurpose room, which has been re-purposed into a boutique shopping experience. Racks of coats in a range of colors–from subdued purple and blue, bold red and gold, to classic black and white cover the room. The woman is greeted by her advocate and checks in for her appointment. She is guided through the array of coats and options. To ensure the coat donations would fit each woman, Abby’s House staff asked for residents and guests to provide their wanted sizes for this day. As she looks through the coats, from a basic black to a fur-lined red, to a reversible patterned blue, she listens to holiday music, tapping her foot to “Run, Run, Rudolph” as she peruses. Trying on a gold coat that catches her eye, the woman is helped by her advocate who holds her items and provides helpful suggestions when the coat is a bit snug on her arms. Finding a black coat with a faux-fur hood lining, she puts this on, happy to discover it fits like a glove, with just enough room to wear a big sweater underneath. She heads to the available mirror in the bathroom to check out what she hopes will be her new wardrobe addition. Coming back to the multi-purpose room, the woman exclaims, “This is the one!” and happily asks to pose for a photo with staff. Some residents and guests request photos not be taken, and Abby’s House will respect that wish in every instance. For those that would love a photo be shared with the Abby’s House community, they will sign their name, knowing full well they can revoke their consent should they change their mind for any reason.
After a few model poses with their perfect winter coat, the woman looks to see an assortment of hats, gloves, and socks to select. Warm black hats to match the coat, or maybe some hot pink gloves to stand out, many choices are available to her. Finding the perfect gray hat and glove pair, she takes a pair of warm winter socks, thanks the staff for assisting her, “This is such a blessing. Thank you. Big hugs to all of you.” Her shopping done, she returns to the women’s center to show off her coat with a few friends, and grab just one more cookie. It is the holiday season, after all, calories don’t count! After enjoying her treat and close conversations with friends, she heads back up the elevator to her home at Abby’s House, ready for the day’s next step in her journey full of empowerment and hope.