A woman slowly walks up the steps to the front door of Guest House on Luray Avenue. She is wearing her prison-issued purple and grey sweats and has no bag of extra clothes or toiletries with her. Katie Shapiro, Volunteer and Development Coordinator at Friends of Guest House, says the women who arrive “often have little time to connect with their families to coordinate clothing and/or funds to be sent to them before their release or have no intact family connections to ask for help from.”
Guest House is the only residential facility for former non-violent women offenders in Northern Virginia and the largest in Virginia. Nearly every week Guest House welcomes women released from jail or prison who arrive with little or no funds to purchase the items they need. That’s where the welcome baskets play a role.
Guest House provides every new arrival with a welcome basket which is a laundry basket filled with essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, hair tie, razor, deodorant, washcloths and towels. If people would like to go further, the women also appreciate underwear, sports bras, leggings and t-shirts in all sizes from S-XXL.
Last July Guest House began an initiative to provide each new resident a Welcome Basket. They see between four and 11 new women a month which translates into 70 baskets a year. Now the supply has run low, and they are requesting donations of new baskets to make the women’s welcome as warm and exciting as possible.
Shapiro recalls Danielle who joined Guest House in October. Danielle arrived with her prison-issued sweatsuit, no toothbrush, no pajamas, no soap, nothing. Danielle was presented with a welcome basket along with a few changes of clothing. She is now an alumni of Guest House and as she looks back she says, “Someone thought of giving me all of the little things when I arrived so I could concentrate on the bigger things.”
Shapiro says that people can contribute to the Welcome Baskets by donating individual hygiene supplies such as 10 shampoo bottles or a few towels or lotions and deodorant. Or someone could fill an entire basket using their personal imagination of what they might need if they were checking into Guest House with nothing. A contribution is always welcome to purchase the supplies to fill part, or all, of a basket. Shapiro adds that bras, underwear and leggings are much needed items.
Contributions may be delivered to Guest House at 1 E Luray Avenue. For a complete list of Welcome Basket supplies, contact Katie Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.