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Red Hatters Nearly Bare All for Charity

Calendar raises money for shelter for homeless and abused women.

To a Red Hatter, having fun means taking cruises, hosting tea parties, going to parties and wearing lots and lots of purple clothes and red hats.

Sometimes, it means wearing next to nothing to help out those in need.

Shirley Jackson, queen mother of the Totally Eccentric Adventurous Red Hatters of Vienna, said she was inspired after a January Red Hatters outing to see the movie “Calendar Girls,” to create a calendar similar to the one in the movie, to benefit homeless women and a shelter in the area.

“We don’t normally take on projects, but I just couldn’t sit by and do nothing,” she said.

Many women in her group of 86 were eager and enthusiastic to help.

“I thought back to when I was a young woman and knew friends who were abused and had no place to go,” she said.

AFTER GETTING support from the group, Jackson dressed in her “best purple suit and biggest red hat,” marched into a local bank and took out a loan to pay for the calendar.

She started looking for places to shoot the calendar in April, and the photo shoots began in late June.

“The girls never saw their pictures until the calendar was printed and done in September,” said Jackson, adding that they were all delighted with the photos.

Some women were photographed in cars, others on motorcycles, some on staircases and by a pool. All were clad in feathers, red hats and other props to keep them covered.

“We have all sorts of women in our pictures and on our calendar,” Jackson said with a laugh.

The best part of the experience thus far, she said, occurred when eight husbands attended the unveiling of the calendar.

“All of them came up to me and thanked me for doing this calendar and for letting their wives participate,” she said. “They were so proud.”

The proceeds from the calendar will go to buying 150 sleeping bags for homeless women, and the remaining money will be donated to a shelter for abused women in Fairfax County.

“Homeless Outreach Services helps homeless and abused women and children,” Jackson said. “They’ve already been able to buy 25 more sleeping bags than last year. I’ve been told that this department falls through the cracks a lot because no one wants to admit that we have homeless women in Fairfax County.

“It made me so sad to think of what we have and take for granted,” she said. “I don’t know how many more sleeping bags are needed for this winter. They figure there’s close to 700 homeless women in the area.”

The Women’s Shelter could receive up to $12,000 in proceeds from the calendar if all 3,000 are sold.

The Northwest Center Advisory Board supervises both Homeless Outreach Services and The Women’s Shelter.

Marjorie Draught never expected in all her life to be in a calendar like this.

“It took some courage. … I was a little chicken going to the shoot, but I really enjoyed the afternoon,” she said. “People who know me laugh and want to buy a calendar.”

Most people are surprised that “staid old ladies would produce such a calendar where they pretend to be naked or partly so,” said Draught, who is featured on the May page holding a large cardboard teacup.

Although Jackson said she won’t do another calendar next year, Draught said if someone else wanted to do one, she’d pose again.

“This is my 15 minutes of fame,” she said with a chuckle. “I’ve sent copies to all my family.”

ELIZABETH JENKINS, site director for the NorthWest Center, said she’s seen the calendar and thinks it’s great.

“It’s really well done, and the pictures are fantastic,” she said.

The Red Hatters had contacted acting president Adrienne Goslee to see if the Center would be interested in working with them for the calendar, she said.

“It was a really pleasant surprise,” Jenkins said.

“The sleeping bags we’ve purchased will keep the women warm in temperatures to 20 degrees below zero,” she said. “In the women’s shelter, the money they give us will be used toward starting over.”

The money that the shelter brings in can be used to help a woman put a deposit on an apartment when she’s ready to move out; it can help with medicine, legal fees, child-care services and other expenses.

“Nobody’s ever approached us wanting to sponsor something specific for our homeless initiatives,” Jenkins said. “This was a new experience for us. It was very generous of them to want to help us."