An estimated 3 to 4 million women are abused by their partners every year in the United States. When domestic violence occurs, women have limited options. Shelters do important work, but sadly, they are often underfunded and understaffed. And, in many cases, there is simply not a shelter nearby for women and their children to turn to. While there are over 3,800 animal shelters in America, there are only 1,500 shelters for victims of domestic violence.
These numbers paint a stark picture of the reality that battered women face every day in this country. There are many ways you can help, but one of the best ways is by supporting the shelter nearest your home. Click here to find out what shelters in your area need most urgently.
While needs vary from location to location, here is a general list of the most pressing items that these life-saving facilities desperately need:
1. Laundry Detergent
Clean clothing is an essential that not only allows women and their children the dignity and comfort they deserve, but well-laundered items are important when it comes to seeking jobs, housing and other essentials as women try to rebuild their lives. Opt for sensitive or fragrance-free options as many kids have allergies, and not everyone enjoys heavily-scented detergents.
2. Hair Care Products
This includes shampoo, conditioner, kids’ detanglers, hairspray, etc. And don’t forget, not everyone has the same type. Get options for different hair textures, and when in doubt, just stock up on a variety of drugstore brands.
3. Old Mobile Phones
Do you have a mobile phone that you no longer use? Some shelters accept previously used mobile phones as women can use them to call 911 in an emergency. You might also donate phone cards that women can use these to call friends or family without requiring a phone plan.
4. Public Transportation Cards
Load up a few metro cards with $5, $10 or $20. Many battered women have no vehicle or way to travel, so they are left with few options when trying to leave their abuser and make a new life. These cards can make a huge difference in their lives.
5. Dental Hygiene Items
Toothbrushes are very needed, but so is floss, mouthwash and toothpaste. This includes kids’ toothpaste and toothbrushes, too.
6. Kids’ Games, Crafts And Books
Imagine if you had to leave your home with just the clothes on your back. In addition to worrying about food, clothing and personal grooming products, how would you manage to entertain your kids and comfort them in a strange environment? Anything from coloring books to board games to Little Einstein toys for toddlers would be invaluable in keeping kids happy and safe within a shelter’s walls.
7. Bras And Underwear
Necessities such as these are hard to come by for women in shelters, as people rarely think to donate these items. Donating new bras and underwear in a variety of sizes and styles will make a huge difference in the lives of many women right in your very community. Don’t forget sports bras, plus-sized bras, nursing bras and other specialty bra needs.
8. Diapers And Wipes
Diapers are hugely expensive, and sadly, some women are forced to re-use disposable diapers because they are so low on this basic need. This is uncomfortable for children and can be dangerous, as it increases the risk of yeast infections and UTIs. If you can donate diapers and wipes, moms and their babies will be so grateful.
Makeup might seem like a frivolous expense, but studies show that employers discriminate against candidates who do not wear makeup to a job interview. Not to mention, for many women, being able to wear makeup can help them to feel more confident and secure—key to landing a job.
10. Healthy Food
Donating to a shelter’s food bank is always appreciated. However, keep in mind that when most people and organizations give food, they tend to donate cheap, unhealthy fare. In fact, some food banks are no longer accepting soda, cookies and other “junk food.” It might sound crazy to turn away food, but think about it: If you’re in the middle of a highly stressful situation with your children, the last thing you want is to add a bunch of sugar and caffiene into the mix. So, if you donate to a food bank, opt for things like frozen fruits and veggies (studies show these are just as nutrient-rich as fresh), whole grain breads and pastas, eggs, healthy cereals, steel-cut oatmeal, and shelf-stable products like tomato sauce, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, and no-sugar-added juices for kids.
From kids’ comforters to queen-size sheets to towels to washcloths, most linens will be appreciated by your local women’s shelter. This could even include things like kitchen rags, oven mitts, burp cloths, crib sheets, Graco Pack N’ Play sheets and throw blankets.
12. Your Time And Talent
One of the most valuable things you can give to a local women’s shelter is you. Your time and talent will be most appreciated, whether it’s volunteering to run a canned food drive at your child’s school or volunteering to teach yoga or children’s art classes to the shelter’s families. You could even offer to teach a cooking class, a knitting class, or offer tutoring help for students or resume-writing assistance for those hunting for jobs.
Before making any big purchases, contact your local shelter and ask what they need. No matter what you donate, big or small, know you are helping deserving women and children. You will be so glad you did.