The University of Central Oklahoma’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center hosted “Pack-A-Purse” on Thursday in the Nigh University Center. The event benefited ReMerge, a prison-diversion and redirection program for Oklahoma women.
“Pack-A-Purse” assists incarcerated women’s transition back into society by fulfilling some of their most basic needs. Donated purses are filled with new toiletries, cosmetics and undergarments as well as gift cards to stores like Target and Walmart.
The VSLC collected new and gently used purses throughout the month of November and packed the bags at Thursday’s event.
“We really appreciate UCO choosing us as the beneficiary for Pack-A-Purse,” said Terri Woodland, program director for ReMerge.
“The women come to us many times with nothing except the clothes on their backs, so these donations truly make a difference.”
Woodland, a UCO alumna, along with program participants Haylie Webb and Rachael Briggs, were on hand Thursday to educate Central students about ReMerge, share their stories and assist in packing purses.
Oklahoma leads the nation in female incarceration, and Oklahoma County alone sends an average of 300 women to prison each year. ReMerge was formed by the United Way of Central Oklahoma as a response to these staggering statistics, taking in its first client in September 2011. It now serves 52 women.
Clients must be female, non-violent offenders who are pregnant or already have children. Most are charged with drug crimes and spend 18-24 months in ReMerge’s recovery program. The program focuses on mothers in order to impact Oklahoma’s intergenerational cycle of incarceration.
Kenedie McAdams, coordinator for the VSLC, reported that the office had collected and packed 105 purses, exceeding the original goal of 50 purses.
“I wanted to expose UCO students to the issue of female incarceration since it’s such a large one in Oklahoma. I am so glad that there are programs like ReMerge that help women who might otherwise be overlooked, and we’re hopeful that our donations will make a difference to them,” McAdams said.
FOR MORE information about Central’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center, visit www.uco.edu/student-affairs/vslc, or call the office at 974-2621. For more information about ReMerge, visit www.unitedwayokc.org/remerge-oklahoma-city-okc.