By: Parker Sanchez
Today’s blog continues our spotlight on Melissa Reese and the Fort Collins, Colorado Affiliate of ISTG. Last week we learned of Melissa’s long-term friendship with founder Dana Marlowe, what called her to start an Affiliate in Fort Collins, and what she’s learned through her work with ISTG. Melissa’s passion for helping the at-risk and homeless has led to some amazing drives and distributions in northern Colorado.
Melissa started with ISTG in the fall of 2016, at that time providing donations to a few organizations near her home. Through social media and word of mouth, the efforts being made by ISTG-Fort Collins were noticed by other organizations and individuals, and her ability to collect and distribute more and more items has continued to grow.
Hospitals Helping Local Women
Currently, the Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) and Poudre Valley Hospital, two of the largest hospitals in northern Colorado, are conducting a drive to collect products to donate to I Support the Girls. The Vice Chair of the Magnet Steering Committee contacted Melissa in early November of last year. Each year, the committee combs through dozens of potential charities to support as a service opportunity for their nurses. For 2018, they had selected the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Larimer County Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, and I Support the Girls-Fort Collins! Melissa recalls, “I could hardly believe what I was hearing – was ISTG really being spoken of in the same league with these nationally recognized organizations?” They had wanted to find an organization to support that had national support and advocacy on women’s issues, but had an impact in the local community. After all their deliberations, ISTG fit the bill!
As part of the collection drive within MCR, 157 new with tags sports bras were collected. They were in turn donated back to the SANE program at MCR. The SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program collects new clothing to give to victims of sexual assault who have had their clothing confiscated as evidence. The photo below is the four individuals who managed this collection and donation.
The Democratic Socialists of America’s Fort Collins chapter conducted a drive-in response to a talk being given by a conservative nationalist group, which was attracting a lot of attention by white-nationalist organizations. DSA decided to best way to combat exclusionary behavior was with a drive that supported and nurtured all members of the community. In just one evening, they received a significant number of contributions of menstrual hygiene items, personal care items, toiletries and toilet paper.
Additionally, Emy Dequardo Dillon, a friend of Melissa’s and Fort Collins resident, personally collected over 2,000 bras last year, which were in turn donated into the local community by ISTG-Fort Collins. She took up this charge as a dedication to a close friend who had passed away.
Where do all of these incredible donations go? Melissa has developed relationships with donation sites at multiple and varied locations.
The Larimer County Community Corrections Department’s Community Corrections program works to reintegrate adult felony offenders into the local community. Community Corrections provides individual and group counseling, life skills training, financial planning and management, and crisis intervention in residential and nonresidential settings to offenders. ISTG-Fort Collins was able to provide menstrual hygiene products, regular and nursing bras to the women in this program, who are learning skills and receiving counseling to reintegrate into the community after a period of incarceration.
Colorado State University’s Fostering Success Program functions in support of CSU students who have aged out of the foster care system and self-identify as needing support and services. ISTG-Fort Collins provides menstrual hygiene products to put in care packages. Students are also provided with an email address where they can send an email with their individual size, and receive a package of bras specifically to fit them.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Poudre Valley Hospital has utilized ISTG-Fort Collins to provide new sports bras to victims of sexual assault who had their clothing confiscated as evidence.
“Child in Need” and “Teens Helping Teens” events co-sponsored by the Matthews House and Homeless Gear provide support and services to middle and high school students and their families who are referred through agencies that serve homeless and at-risk children and families in Larimer County. These events distribute outerwear, hygiene items and other much-needed supplies. Numerous partner organizations including ISTG-Fort Collins join in to provide a wide range of additional services: eye exams, health screenings, children’s books, art supplies, haircuts, resource information, and pet food.
Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado had a student senior capstone project to create a safe space to provide goods and services to their fellow classmates in need, nicknamed “Creek Closet.” ISTG-Fort Collins provided bras and menstrual hygiene supplies to stock the closet.
One interesting donation I’ve done recently was to Redeemer Lutheran Church. They were doing an event to spread awareness about human trafficking. Part of that event was support to victims of human trafficking living in northern Colorado. They were able to come to this event to get bras and hygiene supplies.
And finally, ISTG-Fort Collins has provided relief to victims of Hurricanes Harvey through the “Fill the Truck” project sponsored by Jorgensen Laboratories, and direct relief mailings of menstrual hygiene supplies to Hurricane Irma disaster victims via Iglesias Cristo Sobrano in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
We applaud Melissa and the volunteers at the ISTG-Fort Collins Affiliate. In less than 18 months, the impact this affiliate has had on their community is immeasurable!