Last October Tabitha Holloway found herself homeless and friendless in Tucson. Wings for Women offered antidotes to both.
"When I became homeless with my kids, I went to the Department of Economic Security to apply for assistance and find out about shelters and places to get help," she said. "I went through the list and called everyone on the list, and no one returned my calls but Nadia from Wings for Women. I am so appreciative of what they have done for me; they have been a real blessing."
Holloway came to Tucson from South Carolina to be near her brother after her husband abandoned her and her two children. When living arrangements with her brother's friend fell apart, Wings for Women stepped in to keep them off the streets.
The nonprofit, which is dedicated to empowering women who are homeless or re-entering society after rehabilitation or incarceration, coordinated with the Salvation Army to secure temporary shelter for the family of three. Wings for Women supplied food and other supplies, helped her find an apartment and subsidized a security deposit and several months of rent. It has also assisted with utility bills on several occasions.
In general, helping clients find shelter is the number one priority for Wings for Women, said vice president Michele Jiha. The all-volunteer organization offers aid with basic needs, life skills development, case management, education, job training, financial literacy and other issues including substance abuse and mental illness.
"Our philosophy is that before you can help with hard things like substance abuse or family reunification, you have to fix the immediate need," Jiha said. "Once you get housing in place, the work is still hard, but there is a greater chance for success."
Jiha said that helping clients attain success is an individualized process, and that Wings for Women strives to be as flexible as possible and tailor assistance to client need.
Support takes many forms and has ranged from funding repair of the air conditioning in one client's car to helping another rid her house of bedbugs so she could be reunited with her children. It can also include emergency financial assistance for utilities and other needs.
Wings for Women often collaborates with other community agencies to provide resources.
"We don't have limitations," Jiha said. "We help women of all ages who are living below the poverty line; no demographic is off-limits. The only requirement is that a woman wants help."
Jiha, a quality management analyst at CODAC Behavioral Services who has worked in social services for 20 years, said clients appreciate the organization's lack of bureaucracy since obstacles to aid can often seem insurmountable.
Clients are not alone: Volunteers also appreciate the personalized, hands-on philosophy and the flexible, welcoming atmosphere, she said.
"We want people there to help out in whatever capacity works for them … there are certain times of the year people can give more than other times, and some volunteers go on hiatus for three our four months and then come back. We are very flexible; I think that is what keeps our volunteers coming back," she said.
Clients themselves commonly assist with outreach and other activities as well, Jiha said.
Holloway, who lives on a tight budget while working full time at the Blake Foundation and taking classes in criminal justice at Brown Mackie College, said she is eager to help promote awareness of Wings for Women.
"There are a lot of times I think that I would not have the things I have if not for them. I am so grateful for the organization and pray they will be blessed with great abundance," she said. "If I ever come into a lump sum of money, they are an organization that I will bless."
If you go
What: A Magical Night for Change to Benefit Wings for Women
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway
Cost: $60 per person
The details: Festivities include dinner, dancing, music by Mariachi Adelitas and entertainment by Michael DeSchualit from Magically Speaking. Guest speakers are Paloma Lopez-Santiago and Marian C. Lalonde. A silent auction will feature items such as wine tastings in Elgin, stays at local resorts, original art by local artists and autographed basketballs from the University of Arizona Wildcats and the Phoenix Suns.
Tickets: Go to wingsforwomentucson.org or call 406-6345
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com