CAROGA - A group of women from the North Bush United Methodist Church got together last year and decided to focus their energies on making a positive contribution to the community.
They decided to call their effort "What Women Do," a name that poses "an ongoing rhetorical question" to those involved, according to member Nancy Purcell.
"What do women do?" Purcell asked. "I guess the answer is 'a lot of things,' but most importantly, we help each other."
Members of What Women Do work on a craft project Wednesday at the North Bush United Methodist Church in Caroga. From left, they are Lois Svehla, Lucille Unger and Doreen Ford. Shown inset behind the headline above are colorful lap blankets knitted by member Cathy Ossenfort. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
The group's first effort was to assemble packages of gifts and activities and donate them to Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, for use by children being treated there or visiting sick relatives over the holidays.
This year, WWD's mission is to support the Family Counseling Center's domestic violence shelter by providing items for the women and children who stay there while trying to start fresh after escaping abusive relationships.
Earlier this week, ladies gathered in the church basement to knit, sew and prepare items for a set of large market bags to be donated to women at the shelter. Based on a design and made with material provided by WWD member Maggie Talbott, the bags will be filled with things a woman might need when starting over in a new home.
"I know someone who had to go into one of the shelters, and she had nothing," Talbott said. "Something like this, to one of those ladies, is going to mean so much."
Some of the items will be handmade by WWD members - including colorful, knitted lap blankets made by member Cathy Ossenfort - but they also are seeking donations from the community to help fill the bags.
"We are hoping to get contributions of things that women going out on their own again, starting new, would need," Purcell said. "Women need the basics -shampoo and deodorant ... cleaning supplies, everything. Because if you have an empty apartment and you're starting your life over, you need everything."
The group also plans to assemble beach-towel backpacks that will go to the children of women at the shelter.
"The idea is to fill them with things for kids - sometimes fun things, sometimes useful things - like fleece blankets," Purcell said.
What will fit in the bags and backpacks is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the needs at the shelter, according to Linda Horan, director of the Gloversville-based Family Counseling Center's domestic violence program.
"A lot of times, they have nothing but the clothes on their back," Horan said of women entering the shelter. "Often, if you want to start over again, you have to start with nothing."
The shelter has nine beds, and women and their children are able to stay there for up to three months before moving out to their new homes. The center tries to provide them with essentials they'll need, items including but not limited to: appliances, pillows, sheets, towels, cleaning supplies, blankets, curtains, silverware, pots and pans, and items for small children and babies, such as diapers, wipes, pajamas and baby blankets. The shelter accepts donations of new or used items in very good condition. Gift cards from stores such as Walmart, Price Chopper and Hannaford are welcome.
To make donations, people can make arrangements by calling Horan at 725-4310, Extension 101. The ladies of What Women Do also accept donations on the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the North Bush Church, and they will deliver the items to the Family Counseling Center.
Last year, the domestic violence program provided services to 486 women and children. The shelter housed 56 women and 66 children last year, most of them residents of Fulton County.
"We covered 1,038 hotline calls last year," Horan said. "Domestic violence is a serious problem throughout the U.S. and here in Fulton County. We're very thankful that we have a program to provide support and shelter to victims and provide a shelter where they know they can be safe."
Horan said her agency is grateful for the help provided by What Women Do and others in the community.
"I can't praise the people of Fulton County enough," she said. "The support we've been getting has been great."
The Rev. Kathy Reese, pastor of the North Bush church, said she is proud of the way What Women Do represents the church in the community.
"They're just doing some marvelous things," Reese said. "I'm thrilled at their enthusiasm and their willingness to do what Christ tells us - that we're here to help anyone."
It's small group with about a dozen members, but Purcell said others are welcome to join the effort.
"At the moment, you're looking at mostly church members here, but I'd love to see it expand to include more people from the community," she said.
Some of the craft items made by members of What Women Do are sold to raise money for the purchase of new supplies. Items such as handmade jewelry and knit hats and scarves will be sold during a dinner and ice cream social at the North Bush church from 4 to 7 p.m. July 25 and at another ice cream social from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Caroga Town Park.
Bill Ackerbauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.