Above left: Mary (center) poses with the DWC participants
Above right: The Bag Hags show off their handiwork after a Snack Pack-making party.
Mary leads a group of volunteers who call themselves the “Bag Hags.” The Bag Hags support the Downtown Women’s Center by volunteering monthly and holding an annual fundraiser. Through their fundraiser in 2014, they graciously provided DWC with a year’s supply of bras and underwear. We asked Mary to tell us a little more about the Bag Hags and their experience at DWC.
How did you first get involved with the Downtown Women’s Center?
I learned about the Downtown Women’s Center through a friend. She brought me down here to volunteer and I immediately knew that I wanted to get more involved. I thought, “This is easy and it makes a difference,” and I’ve been coming back ever since, and bringing my friends!
Who are the Bag Hags and what do you do?
We are a group of women who volunteer monthly to put together Snack Packs in the Day Center. We usually include a sandwich, two pieces of fruit, a cheese stick, a bag of chips, a couple pieces of chocolate, breath mints, and a wet nap. We like to include so many things that we had to get a bigger bag! We started out as a smaller group, but almost everyone who comes brings a friend. We have almost 30 people on our mailing list now!
About Snack Packs: Snack Packs are available for women to take with them when the Day Center closes. Click here for more information on donating Snack Packs.
We always try to bring something extra to hand out to the women in the Day Center when we’re making our Snack Packs, like toothpaste or lip balm. We’ll bring Fudgesicles in the summer—that’s definitely our biggest hit! We do it so that we have an opportunity to sit down and talk to the women one-on-one. It’s so important to spend time with the women—it all comes back to them.
We like to make a day of it. We come in to the Center to prepare the Snack Packs and then we’ll go out for a glass of wine to discuss our experience and unwind. Everyone in our group is so good-hearted and committed, so it’s just a nice way to spend time together. That’s where we came up with the name Bag Hags (it just makes us laugh!) and where we got the idea to do our annual fUNDERWEARaiser.
How has your support of the Downtown Women’s Center evolved over the years?
We started out as just monthly volunteers, but realized that we had the capacity to do more. Through our conversations with the women and DWC staff, we learned that underwear was one of their greatest needs. It’s such a basic thing that we don’t usually think about—we all wear underwear—but it makes such a difference to your physical and mental health, and your attitude in general.
We had our first fUNDERWEARaiser in 2013. We held an online fundraising campaign called “Operation Panty Drop” and hosted a “Pinot & Panties” event at the wine bar we frequent after our monthly volunteering. It was such a big hit that we expanded to “Shiraz & Bras” in 2014 to raise money for bras as well. Last year we raised over $20,000!
We didn’t have any fundraising experience when we started, but we were all able to contribute our diverse talents to the effort. It’s also been a great way to spread the word about the Downtown Women’s Center. Everybody who learns what we’re raising money for gets so excited to support the cause. Even the woman at PayPal who helped us set up our fundraising account ended up donating!
Being part of the Downtown Women’s Center Community has been such a profound and wonderful experience for all of us.
What advice do you have for supporters who are interested in holding a fundraising event?
It’s hard work, so make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy! Don’t worry too much about setting fundraising goals though—just jump in and do it. We had donations ranging from $4 to $1,500, and every dollar counted. Whatever you’re able to do will make a difference!