Shalom Austin Women’s Philanthropy Dignity Grows Chapter Helps All Women
Women’s Philanthropy Dignity Grows co-chair Heilla Lain delivering packs to Todos Juntos Learning Center. Courtesy: Heilla Lain
By Allison Teegardin
On January 1, 2023, Shalom Austin’s Women’s Philanthropy started the new year by giving back. Gathered in the Epstein Family Community Hall at the Dell Jewish Community Center, more than two dozen women and children rolled up their sleeves and assembled 200 Dignity Grows totes, each one filled with a month’s worth of personal and feminine hygiene products for local women in need.
Dignity Grows was started in 2019 in Greater Hartford, Connecticut by Jessica Zachs. Today, there are 26 local chapters across the country. Shalom Austin Women’s Philanthropy is the only chapter in Texas. Dignity Grows mobilizes volunteers to organize, assemble, and distribute free, reusable zipper-top totes with personal and feminine hygiene items that are not covered by Federal grant programs and often overlooked as important donations to food pantries.
Women’s Philanthropy Dignity Grows is co-chaired by volunteers Heilla Lain and Julie Waltzer. Lain first became involved with Women’s Philanthropy almost immediately upon moving to Austin in 2006. As a newcomer, getting involved with fundraisers and volunteering was a way to meet people. “I remember being at my first Mosaic and seeing the collective philanthropic power of women in the community,” Lain recalls. “I wanted to make a difference and I knew this was the place to do it and have fun, too.”
Waltzer became involved with Women’s Philanthropy in 2011. She says, “Dignity Grows is an empowering project that I am honored to volunteer with and am proud to have in Austin. Providing basic hygiene needs to women in the Austin area powered by Women’s Philanthropy and the greater Austin Jewish community is a meaningful way to empower women to not have to worry about their everyday needs.”
Lain and Waltzer both agree that Dignity Grows is an impactful opportunity for anyone who wants to help women in their community. As part of a national organization, the framework for organizing a personal packing party has already been outlined. A person selects an organization that helps women to be the recipient of the totes. Then, they set a goal for how many totes to fill and distribute, fundraise for the supplies, set a date, invite friends to help them pack and distribute. What is more, all supplies are ordered from a national supplier by Dignity Grows.
Each $18 donation fills one tote. The most recent pack raised enough for 200 totes which benefited Todos Juntos Learning Center.
The recent pack benefiting Todos Juntos Learning Center began in a Pilates studio in the summer of 2022. Lain, who teaches Pilates part-time, was talking after class with a student who serves on the board for Todo Juntos Learning Center. Lain shared about Dignity Grows and asked if Todos Juntos Learning Center could benefit from receiving totes. The response was an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
“When we arrived with the 200 totes and the door to my over-stuffed vehicle opened, the staff gasped in excitement,” Lain said. “As we carried in the totes, I saw women sitting in the lobby who would be recipients of the totes and it made me so happy knowing we were directly impacting Austin women.” After receiving the totes, Todos Junto Learning Center founder and executive director Christina Collazo said, “I had never heard of Shalom Austin before this. It’s amazing that there is a group of women volunteering with projects like this. And not only for the Jewish women, but they are also helping all women in Austin.”
Lain said that while the average number of totes assembled at each pack is in the hundreds, no amount is too small or too large. “It is so easy for any group to execute. Who can refute the idea of helping other women? We are all responsible for taking care of one another.”
To learn more about Dignity Grows visit shalomaustin.org/dignity-grows.
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