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How the Women's Center of Greater Lansing provides resources for the entire community

October 19, 2023
<p>"Queens Closet" signage hung in the Career Boutique, a service offered by the Women's Center of Greater Lansing, on Oct. 18, 2023.</p>

"Queens Closet" signage hung in the Career Boutique, a service offered by the Women's Center of Greater Lansing, on Oct. 18, 2023.

In the heart of Lansing, the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing has been a vital part of the community for nearly 20 years.

Created in 2005, the Women’s Center provides individuals with connections and services that intend to help women across the community achieve emotional, physical, and fiscal success, Rebecca Kasen, the executive director of the center, said. 

The Women’s Center provides multiple resources to the community, all free of cost. Some of their most popular services include the Career Boutique and their Hygiene Pantry. 

The Career Boutique is open during business hours and provides individuals with free, feminine, business clothing for interviews, new jobs, or simply day-to-day wear, Kasen said. 

During COVID-19, the center transformed the area from a Career Closet to a Career Boutique. The transformation was intended to deconstruct the stigma that community members might feel when going to shop for clothes.

Kasen said that they want customers to leave with a sense of self. To deconstruct the stigma, changes such as the layout of the boutique and the use of inclusive terms like “customer” and “stylist” are used during the closet visit. 

“You’re not just leaving with free clothes, you’re leaving with dignity,” Kasen said. 

The Hygiene Pantry was created after Kasen recognized the disparity faced by women within the community.

As the cost of living rose in the area, Kasen said single-parent households would have to work approximately 80 more hours a year to meet their typical annual income. Seeing as not every parent would be able to make sacrifices of time, some mothers opt to make the sacrifices with their personal hygiene. 

According to Kasen, some mothers might make the decision to cut off costs by not purchasing basic necessities such as deodorant or shampoo for themselves. The Hygiene Pantry aims to eliminate this by providing women with free hygienic products.

From shaving supplies to hair care products, the hygiene pantry has a variety of hygiene products fit for every individual’s needs.

Other services provided include a computer lab open to the public, a mentorship program that helps guide women through understanding fundamental tasks for financial success such as opening a bank account or managing credit and therapy services free of cost.

All of the Women’s Center’s services are available for anyone. One of their most proud aspects is their lack of income testing.

In contrast to other organizations that require income testing to determine eligibility based on specific income brackets, the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing does not rely on such criteria. They take in individuals from any tax bracket for any service.

“If a person comes in requesting a service, I assume they need the service no matter how much money they make," Kasen said.

Currently, Kasen and the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing are focusing on a capital campaign. This campaign intends to gain funding to create a state-of-the-art facility for the center. 

According to Kasen, achieving this will allow the center to reach more families across the Greater Lansing area. 

If the funding is met, the building will include five, separate floors and include a variety of additions such as an incubator retail section which provides women with a free area to hone their retail business skills and share their work with the community.

It will also include areas designated for rental apartments for low-income families along with a confidential counseling center.

Breaking ground will hopefully start within 18 months if the grant is received. If not, they intend to raise money and break ground within three years, according to Kasen.

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The current priority of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is to continue ensuring women across the area have the knowledge to access provided services. Kasen said their volunteers, interns, and workers work to spread the word and create more opportunities.

“I love it here,” Kasen said. “We can do so much here. We have people of all walks of life, which is pretty cool to me. The only way that we’re going to create understanding in the feminist movement is if we all know each other.”

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