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Justice Education drive helps Dismas House

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Justice Education Department of Saint Mary’s College conducts its first clothing drive from March 17 to April 17 and will sell donated clothing at a “Just Shop Boutique” on April 25. All proceeds from the boutique benefit the men and women of the Dismas House.
Junior Meredith Mersits said the Dismas House is an organization in South Bend that serves both men and women who are former offenders.
“The house enables them to get back on their feet after incarceration and learn skills to apply after leaving Dismas House,” she said.
Mersits said the organization not only helps support individuals, but also promotes key moral values.
“We are giving all of monetary proceeds to Dismas to further directly support the population of former offending individuals because people deserve second chances, as well as justice, dignity and worth,” she said.
Mersits said there are currently donation boxes located throughout Saint Mary’s campus, including in Spes Unica, Madeleva, Moreau, Angela Athletic Facility, the Student Center, ECDC, Admission Office and the Welcome Center.
Beginning April 7, residence halls will also have boxes accepting clothing for both men and women and individuals of all ages, she said.
“Please wash all clothes and make sure they are in good condition,” Mersits said. “We would also really appreciate professional clothing to serve the former offending women population.”
Mersits said the Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and South Bend community are encouraged to come to the “Just Shop Boutique” in the Student Center’s A, B and C conference rooms. According to Mersits, the boutique will have clothing, accessories and shoes, and sales will be based on donations.
Besides aiding the organization financially, Mersits said the Justice Education Department also hopes to spread awareness of injustice by educating students.
“Justice Education is about advocating and bringing awareness to topics that do not get light shed on them and also pursuing a change,” she said. “Another aspect of Justice Education is not just talking about what we could do, but going out and doing it.”
Mersits said this call to action is reflected in the goal of the organization to support a population of offenders who do not necessarily receive justice after gaining freedom.
“These men and women go through rough situations even before incarceration, especially women who experience sexual and domestic abuse,” she said. “Also, in many cases, most crimes that incarcerated women commit are not the most dangerous crimes.
“After incarceration, offenders face a harsh world with the inability to vote, apply for SNAP [food stamps]. They have to find housing, most likely in a rough area, [and] sometimes their children are not returned to them. [They may have] no job, no source of income.”
Mersits said excess clothing from the drive is donated to Good Will, which also supports former offenders by offering a work program to help them get back on their feet.
Freshman Mairead Zigulich said she recently donated items to the clothing drive.
“It felt really good to donate knowing that I was able to be a part of someone’s progress and growth, even from a small action,” she said. “It’s great that our community is able to encourage and help the residents get a second chance.”
Zigulich said the boutique benefits those who otherwise could not afford some of the items and will sponsor increased community engagement on campus.
“I think that by integrating Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame along with the South Bend community will spark further volunteerism not only with the Dismas House, but other local organizations as well,” she said.

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