North Texas Anticipates the Return of “Survivor Made”

Abby Germer is both emphatic and convincing when she announces, “We will have Survivor Made back at Refuge for Women North Texas.” As the executive director of the North Texas location where she’s served in various roles since the doors opened in 2015, Abby believes 1000% in the value of this component of the Refuge for Women ministry.

In April 2020, the North Texas location became the second home to establish a Survivor Made shop when they launched a line of leather goods to add to the candles being produced in Kentucky. The handbags, jewelry, and notebook covers designed under the mentorship of a local leathersmith not only expanded the Survivor made line, the venture also created life-changing opportunities for the residents at North Texas. For nearly two years, residents and graduates of the program produced leather goods and processed orders from the cramped quarters of the long-term home’s two-car garage. “We made it work and no one really complained,” Abby notes but over time, the process of producing the quality leather products became increasingly inefficient due to the size of the necessary equipment and the assembly process.

In March of this year, the hard but necessary decision was made to temporarily close the Survivor Made shop until a larger shop could be built. A local builder drew up the plans and committed to donate all the labor to build a 1500 square foot shop next to the North Texas long-term home. Excitement fueled the efforts to raise the money for the materials, but then the economy threw a wrench in the plans. Due to inflation, the cost of materials nearly doubled, and the timeline had to be pushed back. But there’s no defeat in Abby’s voice or expression, only determination and a certainty that the goal will be reached. “The plans, the builder—everyone is still on board. Everything is rapid-fire ready to go once we raise the additional funds.”

"It's not about making a candle or leather goods... They discover what their God-given talents are. That's what it's all about."

“I can tell you that it’s not only our staff, our residents, and our former employees who are enthused about getting the needed funds, but the experience of Survivor Made here in North Texas has lit a fire in our community. The enhancement it has been for the women that we serve literally changes the trajectory of their journey.”

Why does an opportunity to work at Survivor Made make such a difference? “It’s about so much more than making a good product to sell. Many of the women in the program don’t have a good work history. They don’t know what it means to be a good employee or a good co-worker, to be professional and have appropriate workplace conversations.” At Survivor Made, they learn basic job skills like how to show up to work and how to communicate with a supervisor. Also, the chance to make money while living expense-free can provide program graduates with a pretty good nest egg toward the goal of living independently after graduation.

And the experience listed on a resume is priceless. “It can be a hard conversation to have when it comes to resume building,” notes Abby. “But this changes all of that.” An added bonus comes as residents experience the therapeutic aspect of creating something with their hands, a benefit especially helpful after a tough counseling session of processing and unpacking their trauma. In fact, work shifts are often scheduled to follow a therapy session.

Jackie’s story offers living proof of the incredible impact a Survivor Made experience can have. As North Texas’s oldest graduate at the age of 52, the Refuge for Women program was the first thing Jackie ever completed in her entire life. “At Survivor Made, she learned to sew our products and has become our expert seamstress. She worked alongside the residents, and on their hardest days, she was there to speak light and encouragement, telling them they could make it. When it comes from a graduate rather than a staff member, it means so much more. She is one of the champions behind the success of Survivor Made here at North Texas.” It has been thrilling for the North Texas team to see Jackie become a Survivor Leader now working with residents in the home.

Photo of a Survivor Made employee sewing a leather notebook cover
Jackie sewing a leather notebook cover.

Abby’s tone is strong with conviction when she shares, “It’s not about making a candle or leather goods. It’s about the women finding their skills in the different facets that go into a social enterprise business. They discover what their God-given talents are. That’s what it’s all about. It literally changes so much for the women. That’s why we have got to get our shop built and expand our line, our sales, and our brand.”

The North Texas staff realizes that every start-up has its story with unique challenges and opportunities to grow and expand. And they are committed to raising the remaining $35,000 for building materials. “We got to experience firsthand the success of the program, so that is energizing our efforts to get the shop built.” The new timeline goals include fundraising completed in November with groundbreaking in January of 2023 and the new Survivor Made shop operational by next summer.

The entire North Texas team is committed to sharing the Refuge for Women mission and the vision to invite people to come alongside the organization and become part of the solution to sexual exploitation. Donations toward the ongoing ministry at North Texas or toward the funds needed to build the larger Survivor Made shop can be given at this link.

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