Junior League members wear little black dresses for a cause

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Branding photographer Maria Clark looks at images on her camera as she gets some help from Brooke Griffin, who is an intern from Kentucky Wesleyan College, on Monday in her studio. Clark is wearing the same black dress all week to bring awareness to Oasis.

Maria Clark didn't hem and haw about what she would wear Monday.

Clark put on a black dress and matching shoes.

She will wear that same outfit every day this week.

Clark is one of 15 Junior League of Owensboro members participating in the Little Black Dress Initiative to draw attention to domestic violence. Also, they are using the opportunity to raise money for OASIS Domestic Violence Shelter.

"What a wonderful group of young ladies," said Andrea Robinson, OASIS executive director. "Their respect for and attention to community issues is wonderful."

Many victims escape to OASIS with only the clothes they are wearing and nothing else, Robinson said. If they come from the hospital, they may arrive in nursing scrubs or a patient's gown.

The Little Black Dress Initiative is a national Junior League movement. Some chapters across the nation use it to bring awareness to poverty.

Owensboro's group decided to adapt the idea to support women and children in Daviess County. Also, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"It is a fact that one in three women in the U.S. are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime," Stacey Davis, president of Owensboro's Junior League chapter, said in a press release. "Nationwide, one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence, and the vast majority of them are eyewitnesses to that violence."

Clark expects wearing the same dress every day this week will give her reason to reflect on victims of abuse.

In fact, it happened first thing Monday morning when she couldn't choose an outfit for the day. Instead, she was limited to one item of clothing and one pair of shoes.

"It made me really consider the devastation women who live with or flee from domestic violence must feel," Clark said. "It gives a small understanding of the limited choices and limited freedoms they deal with every day."

Junior League of Owensboro usually hosts charity balls or tea parties to raise funds for community projects, which makes the Little Black Dress Initiative unusual.

Also, the movement marks the first time the nonprofit has conducted a fundraiser to benefit just one organization.

Social media drives the Little Black Dress Initiative. Each participating Junior League member posts selfies of herself dressed in her little black dress on Facebook and other platforms, asking friends to donate.

The group started the campaign last week. They will accept donations through Nov. 1.

They hope to raise a total of $2,500, Clark said. However, by Sunday night, Junior League of Owensboro had raised more than $1,000.

Besides Clark and Davis, participating members are Sarah Mattingly, Katie Kolonich, Kaitlyn Moore, Ashley Waldron, Acacia Conley, Jessica Woods, Erin Conkright, Kendall Moore, Krista Clark, Lorinda Wilson, Jen Vogel, Jamie King and Bethanie Roberts.

To donate, go to jlowensborolbdi.causevox.com. Scroll down to donate in honor of a particular Junior League member.

"It's wonderful these ladies are participating and care about such an important topic," Robinson said. "The more awareness we create, the more (abused) women may come forward."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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