Today’s volunteer story submitted by a PBF reader comes from Cookie, an extremely thoughtful young woman who reached out to me about the non-profit organization that her sister started, Athena’s Warehouse.
Athena’s Warehouse, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is dedicated to improving the lives of teenage girls by empowering them through personal support and public service. The organization provides programs for disadvantaged high school girls in the Atlanta community, with an emphasis on positive female role models and empowerment through community service and education.
To learn more about the organization, you may visit their website or Facebook page by clicking the links below.
In Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of war, wisdom, and courage. She embodies strength and independence, and it is fitting that she serves as the icon of a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering and transforming young women into warriors.
As the youngest of five girls, I have been surrounded by inspiring female role models throughout my life. I sometimes jokingly tell my friends that I have five moms, but I am incredibly grateful for such a loving support system. My sisters are beautiful, intelligent, and resilient, and what we have learned about being a self-sufficient woman comes from the original warrior, our mom. While she does cook and clean, she is far from a housewife. She raised five daughters almost singlehandedly, self-taught in many skills out of necessity. She has taught us to never completely rely on anybody else but ourselves.
(Left: me, middle: Bee, the founder)
Self-reliance, independence, courage, and strength—while I have female role models in my life that embody these qualities, many young girls don’t. Athena’s Warehouse, a fairly new nonprofit based in Atlanta, is rooted in this vision of fostering young women’s strength and was started in 2009 by my own sister, Bee Nguyen. It began initially as a prom dress program, collecting gently used dresses for high school girls in the Atlanta area who cannot afford their own. There are several organizations with a similar mission, but Athena’s Warehouse exploits the full potential of a prom dress. These young girls are not simply given a prom dress, but are required to volunteer their time in exchange for their dress. One prom dress can encourage a young woman to contribute in her community and learn to give back even with what little she has.
There are two “Dress Days” or D-Day, where volunteers serve as the girls’ personal shoppers for the day and help them find their perfect dress from the collection of donated dresses. I’ve volunteered at all the Dress Days for the past three years, and it has been so different from any volunteer work I have done because I can actually interact with the girls we are helping. While my parents began their lives in the states as Vietnamese refugees, I’ve never experienced my family’s humble beginnings, and a prom dress was something expected, nothing special to elicit any sort of gratitude. It is amazing to actually experience how grateful and appreciative these girls are of something that I had never even regarded as a privilege.
As Athena’s Warehouse worked more closely with these young women, they realized that these girls needed guidance and resources for issues prevalent in their life. A more recent addition to Athena’s Warehouse is Be Awesome, Be Aware, a series of life skills workshops, where professional guest speakers lecture on real-life topics, such as college preparation, positive body image, nutrition, safety and self-defense, and teen pregnancy prevention. At the end of the program, they award scholarships to two deserving students, based on attendance, participation, and a one-page essay.
While I haven’t participated in these workshops, it still amazes me to hear what an impact they make on these young girls’ lives. It is incredible that a self defense workshop has allowed a girl to “realize that being in an abusive relationship is not normal” and other girls to help their sisters or moms in abusive relationships. The first scholarship winner, Cathy, represents the young women who become strong role models for their families and friends, using Athena’s Warehouse as their stepping stone to empowerment. (You may watch a video about Cathy here.)
I am so incredibly proud of my sister. I would never even think to start a nonprofit on my own, and it is growing to compete with her big heart. She is currently working on further expanding Athena’s Warehouse because as of now, it is purely run by volunteers. Fundraising is also an essential part of Athena’s Warehouse. The main fundraiser for Athena’s Warehouse is an annual adult prom, where the punch is already spiked. This past April was the third annual prom, and I am already working on my new dance moves to debut at the next.
My sister’s current endeavor is trying to host a fundraiser at a local restaurant, Yeah Burger. The catch is Athena’s Warehouse needs 2,000 likes on its Facebook page before they are eligible to host a fundraiser there and so far, they only have 600 likes.
My sisters and I would greatly appreciate it if you checked out the Facebook page and took the time to like it. Every like counts. If you are interested in learning more about Athena’s Warehouse, check out the website! If you live in the Atlanta area, we are always looking for more volunteers as well.
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