Each year, Women’s Lunch Place produces a holiday card, with proceeds going to support women experiencing hunger, homelessness, and poverty, and while the cards have typically been designed in the past by a current guest of the Newbury Street women’s shelter, this year’s featured artist, Kim Collins, is a former guest who has found permanent housing and now works as an art instructor at the shelter.
Twelve years ago, Collins, who had a career as a project manager in printing and publishing and as a publishing specialist, endured a combination of unaddressed mental health issues and traumatic abuse that left her “completely shattered and unable to work.” She subsequently lost her apartment and began sleeping on the street.
Even before she found her way to Women’s Lunch Place, Collins said she was “intrigued” to learn that the shelter served guests their meals on china plates.
“I found a place that had advocacy and a really great facility, with a library, computers, and laundry facilities,” she said of Women’s Lunch Place. “They treated you with dignity; they didn’t treat you like a nameless homeless person.”
Collins soon made a lot of friends at the shelter and was immediately able to connect with the resources she needed. Besides “wonderful meals,” Collins said Women’s Lunch Place offered women in need a place to sleep in pre-pandemic times.
Staff even took the time to learn the names of their guests, something that Collins is trying to do herself now that she works at the shelter.
“They saw you as an individual,” she said. “There’s such a humanity you get at Women’s Lunch Place that you don’t get anyplace else – it’s about the humanity.”
Building on the strides she made at Women’s Lunch Place, Collins was able to find permanent housing. She returned to Women’s Lunch Place this fall as a staff member, leading several classes each week in the shelter’s low-barrier, non-judgmental Therapeutic Expressions program.
Students in her Art Therapy classes work in four mediums, including collage, painting, drawing, and sculpture.
“The classes have become more and more popular,” said Collins, a disabled artist. “With the women I’m working with, I can look forward to them becoming much more functional, since they’re working with such a wonderful organization.”
Through its art program, Women’s Lunch Place recognizes that its “clients all need a form of personal expression,” said Collins, so when she interviewed for the teaching position, she did her best to explain how despite being bogged down by carrying all their wordily possessions in a few bags, many of the homeless women she has known also made room for a sketch book and supplies, or a notebook to write in.
The holiday card designed by Collins depicts a homeless woman walking alongside the entrance to Women’s Lunch Place in wintertime. She didn’t have many photos to work with when she started the project, so she instead drew from her imagination and her own memories of being homeless. Collins adorned the woman in her illustration in the “uniform” commonly worn by a homeless woman during the winter in Boston, which includes a coat, backpack, and leggings.
Besides designing the holiday card and teaching classes at Women’s Lunch Place, Collins has also been busy revamping her artist website at Kimcollins.art, which she expects will be up and running after Thanksgiving.
Henry Morris, communications and marketing manager for Women’s Lunch Place, said purchasing these holiday cards can go a long way towards helping women in need.
“We’re seeing greater demand across the board for meals and mental health services than we’ve ever seen, and winter means the holidays, but it also means cold weather, so there could be no better time for people to support Women’s Lunch Place,” said Morris. “The main thing is that it’s a really thoughtful way to give someone a gift because not only is the art beautiful, but also because it’s directly supporting women who are in need of help.”
A pack of five cards costs $25, which provides a woman with a week of healthy meals, safe transportation to the shelter, or a winter hat, socks, and gloves; cards, which include envelopes and a description of your gift’s impact, will be mailed within three business days of purchase. Bulk orders of 100 or more cards are customizable with a personal message and/or image.
Visit womenslunchplace.org/holiday-cards to purchase Women’ Lunch Place holiday cards.