That Deciding Moment

Public relations committee member Allie Colbert with the current Vice President of Philanthropy and future Couture chair, Lauren Gentile.

Public relations committee member Allie Colbert with the current Vice President of Philanthropy and future Couture chair, Lauren Gentile.

Last year in the fall, my freshman friend and I were invited to attend an event called Alpha Chi Couture while on a lunch date with a senior Alpha Chi whom I adored. To say the least, I was honored and I couldn’t wait to attend an event that sounded so elegant and classy.

I was not surprised that this event lived up to my high vision. The location downtown was beautiful and I distinctly remember looking through the glass at all of the lights and high-rises of Dallas. The clothes, especially the gowns, were stunning. I couldn’t believe there were SMU students modeling such pieces of art.

What really surprised me though was the selfless focus on the cause: domestic violence awareness. I loved how much this purpose shone through the entire event. It was great to see so many strong women come together with the goal of really making a difference.

This was the point when I really saw myself as an Alpha Chi. I wanted to feel the support that was felt in that room and be able to make an impact like they could, together. Now that I am an Alpha Chi, I feel this sense of support with me everywhere I go, and I am honored to get the chance to aid such a fantastic cause, not just for me but for every woman.

By: Allie Colbert

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Why You Should Couture in 2015

EmYou’ve read about our cause online, seen the Facebook posts and checked out the new venue: the Dallas Market Center. In case you need any more persuasion for why you should buy your Couture 2015 ticket ASAP, we bring you some of the highlights of SMU’s biggest philanthropy event.

  1. The runway. Let’s be real- unfortunately, not all of us can make it out to New York Fashion Week. Alpha Chi Couture brings the catwalk to Dallas. Both collegians and alumnae alike work it down the runway to the narration of fashion icon Jan Strimple. It’s not all about the fashion, though. We strut for a purpose. “I love the runway because it’s wonderful to watch my sisters’ hard work against domestic violence pay off,” said senior Collin Reynolds.
  2. The silent auction. Who doesn’t love the thrill of a fashion show? Boys. BUT, who doesn’t love the thrill of a silent auction? No one. Everyone loves a good, competitive silent auction. With an extensive silent auction of items ranging from restaurant gift certificates to hotel stays, there’s sure to be something for everyone. “I almost won four tickets to Medieval Times last year,” said senior Andrew Berry. “You can bet your last dollar I’ll be back at the silent auction this year.” Your favorite guy has no reason to not be your date this wintery February night.
  3. Panhellenic support. Domestic violence is non-discriminatory. It doesn’t care how old you are, your socio-economic class or which sorority you pledged in college. Alpha Chi Couture unites both SMU Greeks and independents in the pursuit of ending this horrendous epidemic. Members of every sorority and fraternity on campus are invited to walk the catwalk, which knows no labels. “I have heard so many wonderful things about the event, and I can’t wait to see what my Panhellenic sisters have put together this spring,” said Lauren Ford, a member of Chi Omega. “Nothing like combining fashion with a good cause!”

Don’t miss Alpha Chi Couture on February 27, 2015 at the Dallas Market Center. Tickets can be purchased online through the end of this week.

By Emily Walsh

Genesis Women’s Shelter: the first six weeks of a new life

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“Is this it?” I wonder. We had taken so many turns since leaving the University Park area that I was completely turned around and had no idea where we were. It is 7:30 a.m. and the sun has not yet risen. In the darkness of the morning, the building looks like the hybrid of a railroad station and Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. The only sound I can hear is the crushing of leaves at my feet and the gentle swish of my Nike shorts as I walk with my friends to the door.

The group of ten of us wait in silence at the door while an Alpha Chi Omega sister operates the intercom. “Hi! We are from SMU and we are here to serve breakfast,” she says. With a beep, we are let in the doors of Genesis Women’s Shelter.

Genesis Women’s Shelter, which houses sixteen women and children at any given time, is a six-week service that provides shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and Genesis Women’s Shelter helps to spread awareness about this issue.

The building and shelter has a secret address in order to remain confidential and to keep its residents safe.Help and housing is free for those women and children in need.

Women and children often arrive at the shelter after escaping from dangerous situations and abusive partners. The mission of Genesis is to “end the epidemic of domestic violence against women and children by stopping individual victimization and reducing the devastating impact of family violence through safety, shelter and expert services to battered women and their children.” Despite the desperate and terrifying nature of the situations of those at the shelter, the attitudes of the women and children we met were positive and hopeful. The gratitude of the women and children at the shelter was touching and unforgettable.

A warm and friendly woman by the name of Dabney greets us at the door and leads us down the hall and into the kitchen, where we set up for breakfast.

Dabney, who has worked at the shelter since 2007, works every day to fulfill Genesis’ mission. “Anything they need we have access to,” she says. “We try to make their stay here be as, you know, as easy as possible because it’s a hard transition.”

During the six-week stay at Genesis Women’s Shelter, every woman and child is each assigned a counselor and a case manager. Genesis provides services such as masters-level counseling, case management, job readiness, play therapy, an on-site school, hotline, and legal aid, all free of charge. The women are given a private bedroom with all of the necessary items to live in the shelter. “Sometimes, they will arrive with nothing,” Dabney says.

Once they have completed their six-week stay at the shelter, they complete an application for the apartments next door to the shelter, called Annie’s House. “One of the qualifications once at Annie’s House is that they need to have an income, so once their time is over there they have to be self-sufficient once they go back out into the community,” Dabney explains. At Annie’s House, the women do not have a curfew like they do at the shelter and are expected to take more responsibility and initiative.

When I came to SMU in the fall of 2011, I was unsure that I would join a sorority at all, but I knew that one of the main reasons that I was looking to join a sorority was the philanthropic component. Once I joined Alpha Chi and started getting involved, I realized how much work and effort the girls put into spreading awareness about domestic violence and fundraising for Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas. Seeing the changes happening in our community as a result is absolutely inspiring.

I couldn’t be more proud that Alpha Chi Omegas work nationally to fight domestic violence. Nothing feels better than knowing that I have had a hand in the amazing work of AXOs in colleges throughout the U.S. The dedication and the passion of my sisters is contagious. Every service of every volunteer and every penny given to the shelter is returned with immense appreciation – no matter how big or small.

After these pancake breakfast trips to the shelter, I was hooked. Seeing the happiness on these folks’ faces was, is and will always be my “Why Alpha Chi” and “Why Couture” moment. The women and children at Genesis were so positive and gracious, despite all that they had been through. It renewed my faith that even the service of one can help change the world. Domestic violence is not simply a woman’s issue. It is a human issue and we must all do our part if we want to end it.

By Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism, ’15)

Alpha Chi Couture: Where High Fashion and Human Rights Collide

Abigail

When I first heard about Alpha Chi Couture as a freshman at SMU, many things came to mind, and not one of those things concerned human rights. I imagined the glamorous runway, the unique opportunity to model as a college student, and the beautiful clothes that would be put on display for the entire Dallas community to enjoy. I was consumed with this idea of a high-class event in the heart of Dallas’ social scene. Perhaps this is why I was so shocked, after volunteering to help with Couture, when I realized there was so much more to Couture than the clothes.

As a sophomore studying human rights, I often feel helpless (and no, it’s not because of my job outlook after graduation). The things I have read about and the things I have seen in films are truly horrific. Human rights abuses take place in every country during every second, and many times I feel ridiculous sitting in a classroom where it often seems there is little I can do to make a difference.

Though I knew of Alpha Chi’s commitment to end domestic violence when I joined nearly a year ago, I never expected to be surrounded by a community of women who are striving to help me realize my greatest passion: to bring hope to women who are victims of abuse. I never expected that Alpha Chi Omega would become a part of my human rights education.

Domestic violence, after all, is a human rights abuse. It is one of our nation’s ugliest stains. It hides in homes and behind facades of “perfect relationships.” It remains hidden because women are often too afraid to speak up for fear of consequences from their partners.

Before Alpha Chi Couture, I regret to admit I underestimated the passion of my chapter for the purpose of ending domestic violence. I truly believed that sorority women participated in philanthropy events for one sole purpose: because they were required to. How quickly I have learned that this could not be farther from the truth about the Iota Sigma chapter of Alpha Chi Omega.

Preparation for Couture has connected me to this organization in a way I could have never imagined. Couture has deepened my passion to fight for women who are powerless to speak for themselves. Though my education has been truly enriching, Couture has allowed me something that many of classes cannot offer: the chance to make an immediate impact in my community.

Don’t be surprised when I say high fashion could be an important tool in bettering human rights. By becoming a part of Alpha Chi Couture as a model, as a spectator, or as a sponsor, you are becoming a human rights advocate without even knowing it. Most importantly, however, you are becoming part of the end to an epidemic that has plagued millions of innocent women around the world and in your own neighborhood.

Abigail Foster, sophomore studying Human Rights and Public Relations                                      
PC ’14

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – My Story

By April Zinober – SMU and Iota Sigma graduate ’13, current FSU Law student, and reigning Miss Tarrant County 2013:

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The month of October, though widely-known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, something that has an immense amount of importance to me.
When I originally decided to dedicate my platform in the Miss America Organization to supporting victims and witnesses of domestic violence, I also made the decision to make my story – my life – public.
Throughout the last few years, I traveled the State of Texas, speaking to schools, conferences, and businesses about my experience with domestic violence.  I had the honor of partnering with the Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center, Safe Haven of Tarrant County, and being a board member for an auxiliary group for Genesis Women’s Shelter.  I was a special guest at Dallas Mayor Rawlings’ 10,000 Men Against Abuse rally and have served as a symbol at shelters of the ability to overcome violence and lead a healthy lifestyle.  Vocalizing my story, though sadly more common than you would expect, has been my way of making good what I’ve known and seen.
MY STORY
When I was 10 years old and my parents divorced, my mother began dating an abusive alcoholic – Ed.  As the case with most abusers, he was initially the ideal partner for my mother, took us out on his boat, had a great motorcycle, and I got along very well with his two kids.  Within a few months, however, we became aware of Ed’s physically and emotionally abusive tendencies.  For years, I would be up until 4am on school nights hiding with my mother on the Pinellas Trail, praying he’d fall asleep somewhere before he found us.  Sometimes we were lucky; sometimes we weren’t.
At that delicate age, I wanted everyone to think my life was perfect, and quite frankly, I was very good at it.  Aside from my two best friends, no one had the slightest clue what was happening, not even my highly-involved father.
People constantly question me wondering how this was possible.  How I was able to hide my home life not only from my teachers and friends’ parents, but from my father who saw me frequently?  Honestly, it’s not as hard as people think.  There are 3.5 million children a year who hide the abuse they live through daily.  In total 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence every year in the United States.  They don’t invite friends to spend the night.  They either become reclusive or pretend to be happy at all times.  If they’re argumentative, people just assume they’re being rebellious and rarely think it’s because they have a legitimate reason to be angry.  They spend as much time away from home as possible and appear to be either very social or very studious.  Really, they just don’t want to go home to face the storm.
In 2002, a snippet of my destructive home was made public in one of the most invasive ways you can imagine.  After my mother’s cousin, who was living with us for a short period of time to “protect” us from Ed, became very drunk, he beat my mother for two hours and then burned down our home.  Two officers were injured that night and though he was shot five times, my mother’s cousin survived.  I lost my pet cat and almost all of my belongings, and the event was plastered all over the news.
For three and a half more years, I lived with Ed’s violence now that he once again had access to us.  However, only a few months before my 16th birthday when my grades were plummeting, I let my father know enough of what was happening that he took me away and I never looked back.
The violence I lived through, the pain I experienced, and the betrayal I felt for years will always be a part of my past, but as I have said many times to those who have experienced similar experiences, your past does not define you.  I refuse to be reduced by my experiences.That has ultimately been my message when speaking about my experiences.  Everyone has endured some type of adversity.  Everyone has had some hurdle to overcome.  But each person has the ability and strength to continue progressing despite the obstacles they face.  Your past does not have to dictate your future.
One of the main reasons I decided to be so open and forthcoming about my life is to show that you never know what someone is living through.  Domestic violence affects every demographic – it knows no socioeconomic status, nationality, or ethnicity.  While living with my mother, no one would have ever guessed what I was dealing with on a daily basis – not even my own father.
And that’s the reason I write this blog now.  To serve as a reminder that you never know what issues or demons others have to fight every day.  Treat people with love and kindness because you never know what a few kind words may mean to them.  Be kind, sympathetic, understanding, and loving.  Be a positive light in someone else’s day.  You never know what impact a small act of kindness can have on someone fighting a battle you know nothing about.
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The Color Purple

By Samantha Liles – Iota Sigma chair of the Logistics committee:

Today marks exactly one month until Alpha Chi Couture–by far one of my favorite events of the year. Couture is an annual fashion show and silent auction hosted by my chapter (Iota Sigma) of Alpha Chi Omega. It benefits both our national philanthropy, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, and our local philanthropy, Genesis Women’s Shelter. To date, we have raised over $200,000 over the life of our event; this year, our goal is $80,000.

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What makes Couture so special? It’s hard to put into words. There is something incredible about seeing hours upon hours of labor and hard work come to fruition in a beautiful event. It is even more beautiful knowing that event stands for something and has benefit. Yes, we have fun while doing it, but ultimately, that’s not why we do it. We do it for the women and children who, without our donation, may not have a place to turn when abuse comes out of nowhere. We do it for the women who need a number to call when they’ve had enough. You see, abuse isn’t simply something physical–it can be emotional, mental, and much less visible than you might expect. Words can bruise even deeper than punches, because women might not realize what they’re putting up with is inexcusable. Last Couture, as I stood at the end of the event with my head spinning and my (high-heeled) feet aching, I felt something more. I felt my heart burning with pride for my chapter and our cause. I knew that even if we only had the chance to affect one woman’s life positively, then all the hard work was worth it.

October also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness month, symbolized by the color purple. I like this, because it holds meaning: bruises are black and blue, but as they age and become less painful, they lighten to purple. Purple bruises are a sign that the worst pain is behind us, and that we are on our way to healing. Through Couture, we hasten these bruises to healing, in a sense. We provide an avenue to eliminate the black and blue.

Want to learn more? Check these out, and download our iPhone app by searching for “Alpha Chi Couture”!

http://www.alphachicouture.com

http://www.genesisshelter.org

 

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Check out the original blog post here! 

http://samanthaliles.com/2013/10/08/the-color-purple/ 

Beyond Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By an Alpha Chi Omega collegiate at SMU:

            Being an Alpha Chi, domestic violence awareness is near and dear to my heart. Stories about domestic violence hit me hard because I know of the love and care these women can find at shelters like Genesis once they seek help.

            This semester, I’m interning at a newspaper. Each day, I read over fifty police reports, and many of these are considered “family violence” offenses. The stories can be gruesome and heart wrenching, but they are a daily reminder that domestic violence happens in my own backyard. One in four women will know someone who experiences a form of domestic violence. One in four women could end up in these police reports that I read through.

            All too often, the stories report that the offender has abused the victim multiple times. All too often, the victim refuses to complete a family violence reporting packet, refuses to allow the police to take a picture of her for the offender’s case files, or refuses to accept medical help.

            Most newspapers don’t report on family violence crimes. There are issues with privacy and sensitivity, and I definitely understand that. But I feel that the community could really wrap their heads around just how often abuse happens if even one newspaper published how many family violence reports were in police records each day. I’m sure just the number of reported crimes alone would be enough to shock people into accepting this reality: these issues won’t go away until we’re willing to acknowledge them.

             Alpha Chi Couture is so amazing because we do just that: we acknowledge that domestic violence is something that should be discussed, and we focus on getting women back on their feet again. We are so blessed to be able to work with Genesis Women’s Shelter, and we look forward to another successful Couture!