The BRAWS volunteers (in no particular order) are Zulma Solis, Sydney Lenard, Stephanie Schlea, Doris Garlock, Evie Garces-Foley, Diana Chavez Cruz, Ilene Trachtenberg, Fariha Tasneem and Katherine Fernandez.
Photo Courtesy of Hernan Vargas
Britepaths provides local, low-income residents with emergency assistance, food, financial-literacy programs, workforce skills and one-on-one mentoring. And on Feb. 29, the Fairfax-based nonprofit partnered with BRAWS to help them in another way, as well.
BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters) provides women and girls living in shelters with new, personally fitted undergarments and menstrual supplies. And it and Britepaths hosted a community event enabling women to “shop” for bras and underwear for themselves and their children.
BRAWS board member Ilene Trachtenberg brought about a dozen volunteers who assisted with the fittings. “I’m very happy that Britepaths is hosting this today,” she said. “There are beautiful bras and nice underwear, and it’s wonderful to help these women with their self-esteem.”
And, added Britepaths Programs Director Chris Garris, “One of the women has a job interview tomorrow, so she was excited to get a new bra.” Each woman left with two new bras and a package of underwear, plus children’s underwear. And Britepaths Workforce-Development Manager Jill Beres noted that “BRAWS also provides us with free sanitary napkins and tampons for our clients, monthly, and does the same thing for Fairfax County Public Schools.”
Meanwhile, Mary Kay Cosmetics volunteers did free makeovers and gave away products, and children enjoyed snacks and activities. Britepaths also offered information about workforce-development and resources for those looking for a new or better job. And a speaker shared her own, powerful experiences and advice about “Turning Your Mess into Your Message.”
ONE OF THE WOMEN attending, Ramia Raigns, came to get the underwear and proper-fitting bras. “And I like that it’s an event to empower women, so I wanted to be a part of it,” she explained. “I also got a Mary Kay foundation and hand treatment.
“I think it’s very important for women from different backgrounds and communities to have resources and events like this to help them, if they can’t buy these things on their own,” she continued. “It makes a big difference. Women deserve to have underwear and feminine-hygiene products for their needs. And bras are so expensive and – depending on your body type – it can be hard to find certain shapes and styles.”
Also pleased was Ana Perez, who wanted to see if she was wearing the wrong size bra. “And it turns out, I was,” she said. “I needed a larger size, and the two, new bras I got feel perfectly comfortable.”
Besides that, she said, “I like that these events exist, not only for me, but for other women needing help. It brings up your self-esteem, and that’s important because, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you can’t accomplish very much. That’s how it works. It’s common for women to feel that way – but events like this change that.”
While there, Perez also learned how to correctly apply makeup to her face and to exfoliate her lips before applying lipstick. “And they showed us this Mary Kay moisturizing lotion for hands that stays on, even after washing,” she said. “I like it; it feels good and my hands feel soft and pampered.”
AFTER THOSE ACTIVITIES, attendees listened to guest speaker Sevana Stone, a Fairfax resident, Britepaths mentor and owner of VersaTel Solutions, which helps small businesses achieve better workflows. At Britepaths, she helps provide employment information, plus advice on how to start a small business. But she was at the shopping event for a different reason.
“I wanted to share my story with these women and help them feel like they’re not alone on their paths,” she said. “It’s good to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re in the darkest part of your journey, it’s hard to imagine that there’s sun or light.
“I always tell people, you’ll never be sent into the forest without an ax,” continued Stone. “You may not know where it is, but it’s there. And when you find it, you cut down the trees, find your path and become enveloped by the light. I feel like life is a journey, and I see the dips as temporary obstacles to get over.”
Afterward, a client who attended the event emailed Beres to tell her how much it meant to her. “Thank you for the opportunity,” she wrote. “I really enjoyed it, and the guest speaker was so inspirational. I appreciate it so much; that’s what I needed, and I could relate to her. Thanks for all of Britepaths’ love and support.”