Two Westlake High School students chose to celebrate Women’s History Month in a special way this year — by supporting homeless women in Cuyahoga County.
Juniors Jenna Kowalski and Maeve Bihn recently collected and donated more than 100 articles of clothing, hygiene products and other supplies for women at the Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center in Cleveland.
“We wanted to do something meaningful within our community,” said Jenna, 16. “Since this month was Women's History Month, we thought it would be appropriate to complete a service project that empowers and supports women.”
Laura’s Home provides shelter and safety for women and their children during difficult times in their lives. The center helps women get adequate income and sustainable housing through personalized programs, according to the organization.
Some of the items the girls collected are new and gently used clothing, large-size toiletries, feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, school supplies and bed linens. The two collected donations between March 20 and Thursday through a labeled donation box on Maeve’s front porch. Checks were also collected, said Maeve, 16.
Response to the donation drive was almost overwhelming for the girls. After a week of collecting donations, the two filled two whole cars with goods, which were then donated to the center on Friday.
“My favorite part of this drive was dropping off all of the generous donations from our Westlake neighbors,” Jenna said. “Giving these donations to such a great cause was so rewarding. ”
The two began planning this donation drive on March 20. Jenna and Maeve were looking for good service projects for school when Jenna’s mother, Wendy, suggested they look into Laura’s Home. After learning about what the center does for women in the area, Jenna knew it was the perfect organization to support.
However, that doesn’t mean collecting items for this drive was easy. The two believe that managing their time between school and their various extracurricular activities was the hardest part of the project.
“Between school, work and soccer, I didn’t have much time on my hands,” Maeve said. “But I still wanted to create a successful service project.”
The girls’ donation comes at a critical time for the organization.
“Organizations like Laura’s Home rely on donations to help support the people they care for,” Jenna said. “Since COVID has recently caused many to struggle with job security and thus income, Laura’s home has more women than ever before and needs more donations to support them.”
According to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, about 23,000 people experienced homelessness in Cuyahoga County in 2018, the most recent figures available.
According to an annual report by The City Mission of Cleveland, Laura’s Home’s affiliate organization, more than 340 women were helped and more than 79,840 meals were served to them last year.
Nationally, about 219,911 females experienced homelessness in in 2019, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
When they’re not running collection drives for women in need, Maeve and Jenna like to stay busy. Jenna enjoys soccer, painting and photography while Maeve enjoys playing soccer and hanging out with friends.
The two hope that through supporting Laura’s Home, their donations will help women less fortunate than them.
“Laura’s Home is especially important to us because as women, it is important to give back to a place that helps other women who are in need,” Maeve said.
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