Law School Staffer Aims to Bring Joy to Domestic Violence Victims
Donate to the Mother’s Day Basket Project throughout the month of April
Every year, Kari Shafenberg calls the local domestic violence shelter, hoping to hear she won’t be needed.
“And that never happens, obviously,” says Shafenberg, the assistant director of registration and records at the Sturm College of Law. “For me it’s an annual reminder that I can have an impact.”
For more than 20 years, Shafenberg has been motivated to make a difference, however small, in the lives of women affected by domestic violence. As early as the sixth grade, she watched a woman she knew go through an abusive relationship.
“When she finally got out of it, one of the challenges that my mom saw in her was that feeling of a lack of self-worth,” Shafenberg recalls. “My mom thought it would be a great idea to do something that’s a little bit frivolous, a little bit silly, and just say here’s a present that makes you feel special.”
The Mother’s Day Basket Project has become a tradition ever since, following the family as it has moved across the country. Each year, Shafenberg sets up donation boxes and collects items that will make each recipient feel special, no matter her circumstances.
These items are then assembled into gift baskets that are delivered to local shelters and given to women on Mother’s Day — a day that tends to be emotionally taxing for abuse survivors.
“We don’t put anything in the gift baskets that you wouldn’t give to your own mother or your own good friend,” Shafenberg says. “This is about more than a donation. It’s about telling someone they are valuable and valued. It’s about telling someone that even a stranger recognizes that they are important and beautiful and deserve better.”
From April 2 to May 4, people may deposit donations in boxes set up around campus.
Requested items, some of which may be gently used, include:
- Bath accessories (bubble bath, bath puffs, bath salts, etc.)
- Hair accessories (brushes, combs, clips, bows, etc.)
“We’re not changing the world or curing cancer,” Shafenberg says. “But it’s a way every year to be reminded there are steps we can take and things we can do to positively influence a person’s life, if only for a short time.”
Or perhaps for longer.
On a run to Walmart to turn cash donations into gift baskets, Shafenberg and her mother loaded the checkout conveyor belt with bath items. The cashier asked if they were for a spa party. Shafenberg’s mother told her about the basket project. The woman behind the register started to cry.
“I got one of your baskets,” she said. She still kept the bottle of perfume she received on her dresser, to remind herself that things were going to get better.
Stories like that keep Shafenberg motivated to continue the project year after year.
“It doesn’t matter your race, your socioeconomic status; this is something that can affect anybody,” Shafenberg says. “[The project] really seems to touch people in a powerful way.”
Kari Shafenberg (center, wearing black) stands with other volunteers helping with the Mother's Day Basket Project. Shafenberg has kept the project going for more than 20 years.