Second Step Housing’s Women Helping Women Mentoring Program in Vancouver, WA matches women in transitional housing with women volunteers from the community who provide companionship, encouragement and serve as a role model. Currently there are 20 mentor/mentee partnerships in the program. They get together each week and the Women Helping Women group meets monthly for fun filled activities with the focus directed towards building healthy relationships.
Two of our most memorable activities occurred during this holiday season. We kicked off the season with a Jack-O-Lantern & Scarecrow Party in October, and then concluded with a holiday Wreath Making and Cookie Exchange Party in December.
In October, 22 women and their children arrived in high spirits to build scarecrows for their front yards. Each family brought clothes from home to dress their scarecrow. Paper bags were stuffed with straw and painted to use as the faces of the scarecrows. Each scarecrow looked like it would ward off any ghosts and goblins that came near.
One unexpected bonus at this event was the sharing of fresh produce from Velvet Acres Gardens. These generous folks donated fresh cauliflower, broccoli, beets, peppers, squash, zucchini, and, of course, pumpkins to be shared with all of the families present. In addition to the produce, Velvet Acres provided us with lots of great recipes to make some tasty dishes out of the veggies.
After we finished building our scarecrows, we all got together to share our fun experiences over minestrone soup, sandwiches, salad, and brownies. Everyone had a great time, and went home with a scarecrow, a pumpkin, fresh veggies (with recipes), and lots of warm memories.
Just a few short weeks later, and the holiday season was upon us. To celebrate, 24 women and their children got together to build holiday wreaths and share their favorite holiday cookies. This fourth annual wreath making party and cookie exchange encourages mentors and mentees to get together prior to the event to bake cookies to share and exchange.
Our creative abilities were demonstrated as we built holiday wreaths from freshly gathered greens, pine cones, assorted foliage, ornaments, and beautiful handmade bows that were made by one of the mentors. Over 15 wreaths were built. Each one was unique and all were gorgeous. They will lend holiday cheer to the front doors of many homes.
No Women Helping Women event is complete without food, and this was no exception. Tradition dictates that we have a cookie exchange. Each woman baked up a batch or two of her favorite holiday cookie recipe. Some were plated for sharing, but most were packaged up for the women to exchange and take home after the event to enjoy throughout the holiday season. In addition to sharing the cookies, we also had homemade chili, coffee, milk, hot chocolate, and hot cider.
The participants left the party with a beautiful holiday wreath, a variety of freshly baked cookies and a full stomach. This was a great way to kick off the holiday season.
Women Helping Women is looking forward to the new year with lots of special events planned.