Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 12, 2013

Goodwill event benefits women, children


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Mary VanderKolk and her two daughters found a way to celebrate Mother’s Day early for a good cause.

Mary and her daughters, Lauren and Allison, ate brunch at the City Opera House Saturday at the Goodwill Inn’s first annual Power of the Purse event. The brunch and silent auction serves as a fundraiser to benefit women and families who stay at the shelter.

Homemade purses with flowers adorned tables in a room where about 140 women gathered. Local businesses donated purses, salon packages, massages and golf outing tickets for the auction.

Lauren VanderKolk works for Northern Lakes Community Mental Health and sees the impact of Goodwill Inn in the community.

“It’s not just about giving them a place to stay,” she said. “It’s all-encompassing services.”

The Goodwill Inn in Traverse City provides emergency and transitional shelter for men, women and children. The shelter’s programs include life skills classes, job placement services, children’s services and case management.

Necole Flanigan knows the importance of those services firsthand. She left a structured life as a Roman Catholic nun in 2011 and turned to Goodwill Inn. Staff helped Flanigan, 25, build a resume, hone interview skills and learn to apply for jobs. She enrolled in college and now has two jobs and a home.

“They said here it is, but you’ve got to do it on your own,” she said. “I’m the type of person if I don’t succeed right away, then I want to give up. They gave me support I needed and they gave me confidence.”

Just $140 will pay for a woman to gain resume tools, or pay for diapers during an infant’s entire stay. A video featured local philanthropists sharing about their favorite purses and why they love Traverse City. Some recognized how easy it’d be to fall into homelessness, and how far donations can go.

Women and children make up more than 40 percent of the people Goodwill Inn serves, program director Liz Post said, with 248 women and 83 children turning to Goodwill Inn’s services last year.

“The difference between someone who has to go to the shelter and someone who doesn’t is that most of us have resources in our life,” Post said. “When we have a crisis, we have the resources to overcome it.”

Flanigan wants women to feel empowered and know there’s help available.

“I think it’s really important for women to know that they can get out of homelessness,” Flanigan said. “It doesn’t matter what background they come from. There are people out there who are willing to help.”