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Boutique benefits local women

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Saint Mary’s students were asked to raid their closets over Easter Break for clothing, shoes and accessories in an effort to raise donations for the first ever “Just Shop” Boutique clothing drive this past Friday in the Saint Mary’s Student Center.

Donations were dropped off in labeled containers located at various sites around campus including the Student Center, Spes Unica Hall, Moreau Hall, Madeleva Hall and even the residence halls, Adrienne Lyles Chockley, interim coordinator of the SMC Justice Education program, said.  

In conjunction with the Justice Education department, junior Meredith Mersits created the boutique after being moved by the stories and issues facing incarcerated women, Mersits said.

“The end of last semester, I started thinking about different issues that I was passionate about, and one of them happened to be the incarceration of women, thrift store shopping, and then how women who are incarcerated can get justice just because they go through so many problems after incarceration such as sexual assault,” Mersits said.  

By incorporating the Saint Mary’s and South Bend community, Mersits said she hoped to bring a little light to the lives of women currently or previously incarcerated.

“By putting those ideas together, I kind of figured out I wanted to bring light to the lives of incarcerated women, [and the] idea evolved into this boutique,” Mersits said.

Open to both the South Bend and Saint Mary’s community, the “Just Shop Boutique” had the layout of a thrift store with a classier appeal, Mersits said.

“I’ve seen all sorts of things.  It’s old students clothing, clothing from parents, I’ve seen children’s clothing, [just all] across the board.  We’re just calling it a boutique, though, [instead of a thrift shop],” Mersits said.

Mersits said she began the project on her own with the gracious help of the Saint Mary’s community.

“We had a lot of people support it. Everywhere on campus I’ve gone to, they [were] so helpful,” Mersits said. 

“Everyone was open to the idea, but it was definitely difficult to plan everything, because when you plan an event you don’t think about the fine details like getting together the donation boxes, because that was definitely tedious and time-consuming.  But by Friday night when I finally put the boxes out, I could finally see the work [coming together].” 

Lyles Chockley’s help really pushed the project forward with publicity within both communities, Mersits said. 

“Dr. Lyles Chockley has a lot of connections.  We also [talked] to people from the YWCA.  Through networking and [other associations], we’ve really been trying to bring in the South Bend community,” Mersits said.

Lyles Chockley’s big project last semester, the Symposium on Female Incarceration, had a strong influence on Mersits’s inspiration for the “Just Shop” boutique, Mersits said.

“Going to that really sparked my interest in wanting to do something for those women, giving them more of a resource and a chance and not just, ‘Here’s charity,’” Mersits said.

“When I decided my major, social work, I feel like [it] helped me to see the bigger picture of things, because the biggest thing you can give is your time,” Mersits said. “Definitely what the justice education department has been organizing is a revival.  You can talk all you want, but it doesn’t really mean anything if you can’t walk the walk.”

“This year has definitely been great working with all the people in the Justice Education department. Everyone is also really supportive of everyone’s ideas.  There’s so many people who are passionate about it.  The whole group is dedicated to bringing justice to the world,” Mersits said.

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