Hi Mary Jo,
I wanted to share a couple of thoughts based on the last few times I brought young women in to the Butterfly Boutique. I work with young adults from 16-24 years old, and most of them have learning or other disabilities. Every young woman who comes out of your boutique does so with renewed vitality and motivation. Your volunteers are kind, engaging, and fill my students with hope and thoughts of success. I want you to know that not only do they walk out with desperately needed clothes, but also with a renewed desire for independence and strength.
Barbara Maryniak, Youth Workforce Development Services / Starbridge Services, Inc
Angels of Mercy is an amazing non-profit organization that helps women and children in several different ways. What breaks my heart the most is the fight against sex trafficking! It happens in the US as well as 75 other countries. Angels of Mercy will send dresses to these countries for young girls so that they are not targeted. These dresses are made from pillow cases and fabric. They are adorable! Not only does the Angels of Mercy focus on this they also focus on helping women who are victims of domestic violence as well as homeless trying to get back on their feet.
From …Chayil C
Angels of Mercy has been a support since coming to Rochester. The Angels were some of the first people I met when I arrived here. The Angels were welcoming and kind which has been a comfort while transitioning in Rochester. The Angels have provided relational, emotional and spiritual support and also free high-end clothing which has proven to be a big financial help when interviewing for jobs and going back to school. Angels has encouraged me to move forward.
I came to Angels of Mercy 2 weeks ago when you were at your sister’s wedding and the volunteers and staff treated my family of one grandmother, one adult daughter and her 7 year old sister and one granddaughter, age 1, as royalty. They and I really enjoyed our visit and appreciated all the TLC.
Thank you. Bill (From Bill C. of Catholic Family Center)
Dear Angels of Mercy,
“We came back from Angels of Mercy with a smile that doesn't seem to leave their face along with dignity and the confidence they need to be successful. Your work UPGRADES our program TREMENDOUSLY because we are sending positive women who are ready to go back to work and become independent! Thank you so, so much for all of your support!"
(From Eileen C. of Rochester Rehabilitation)
Hello my name is Dawn and I wanted to take a minute to tell you a little bit about my experience with Mary Jo and Joe through Angels of Mercy. Wow… the name is so fitting. Mary Jo and Joe are angels sent from God. I myself am a disabled veteran with a 17 year old daughter. I am originally from Buffalo NY and I relocated to Rochester NY for a better life. Well as faith may have it as of Sept 2017 an unforeseen situation accrued and we lost our home and everything in it. This was a hard pill to swallow. We became homeless. Now we have no clothes no home and no income. I'm now not physically well at all. We ended up in an apartment deemed not habitable by the veteran’s. We are in danger of becoming homeless again in the next couple of weeks. My veteran’s rep gave me Mary Jo’s number. I called her right before New Year’s and she and Joe meet us on their day off to make sure we had clothes so we did not freeze. My daughter was smiling the whole time we were there. She doesn't even smile anymore it made me cry to see her smile. As New Year’s fell upon, they made sure we had a good meal and some extra things for the New Year. They came on a Sunday in freezing weather to make sure we were ok. These angels are real angels. Not even family or friends ever extended their kindness to us. I'm always a giver and it was so hard to just step up and say I need help. I myself am a victim of rape by my dad domestic violence and I have a lot of mental issues. I am a disabled veteran and may be homeless in less than 2 weeks, but I know God put Mary Jo and Joe the Angels of Mercy in our path to be our guardian angels. In such a short time they have sent true love and happiness into our lives. May God bless them and the Angels of Mercy for all you have done to make us feel loved and to experience happiness and hope. Thank you so much!
Hello, My name is Carrie K. I am a faculty member at Crouse College of Nursing in Syracuse NY. Last year we received dresses from your organization to take on our medical mission to rural villages in Guatemala. This year we are hoping that you could supply us with some of your very special dresses again. The girls in the villages loved them so much and made them feel so special. We set up an area in our clinics that had the dresses displayed in and the girls got to pick out the dress that they wanted. Last year we took I think around 50 dresses. We have made extra room in our supplies this year to take 200 dresses if you could donate them that would be great. The girls would love to have them. The dresses brought a light in their eyes that you almost never see. They were so proud to wear them and to think that someone in the US cared about them from so very far away. You work is wonderful and you are changing the way so many girls see themselves!
Thank you for your support of Angels of Mercy and Dress-A-Girl Around the World. My name is Janet Schoenberger. I am a retired teacher who began volunteering at the Angels of Mercy Butterfly Boutique over 3 years ago after hearing about how they are impacting our community and the international community in supporting women’s issues. I am now a Board member. Little did I know when I first began volunteering how Angels of Mercy would impact me and profoundly affect my family in a personal way.
I started bringing my grand-daughter Maya to the Butterfly Boutiques as it provided a safe environment for her and where she came to care deeply about Mary Jo, Josie and other volunteers, as they did for her. Working at the boutiques gave her a positive outlet where she felt she could give back to the community. Maya suffered from mental health issues and drug addiction that began to show up in her early High School years. She struggled with keeping friends and isolated herself because of her problems. When her parents were working she often felt lonely so she would come to the boutique with me on Thursdays and engaged in positive ways with both volunteers and clients. Her incredible artwork and talent thrived in an environment where she could help women coordinate colorful, flattering outfits and accessories at the boutique. Volunteering helped her rebuild her interpersonal communication skills. For example, she used her Spanish language skills in talking with women who could not speak English. She would sometimes help in the office with computer details. Maya enjoyed packing dresses with me for the missionary trips, too. She became involved in going to Dress-A-Girl Events at St. Cecilia’s and began sewing. She loved learning the process of how to make a dress. I cherish the picture I took of her with a colorful dress and doll she made at St. Cecilia’s. She was so proud of it! She chose to make a baby-sized dress because she was compassionate towards poor families in 3rd world countries who had to sell their children into trafficking in order to survive.
Apart from Angels of Mercy, her drug addiction was still strong so Mary Jo made the recommendation that Maya look into Hope Teen Challenge in Vestal, NY. Maya became a resident there and did really well while she was there. She was able to do a lot of community outreach. She engaged in Bible Study that she enjoyed and took to heart. Maya was also able to keep up with her artistic talents while there with bead-making, sewing, card-making and drawing. We were so grateful to Mary Jo and Angels of Mercy that they were a stepping stone to her on-going recovery while at Hope Teen Challenge.
We, as family, are happy to be involved with Angel of Mercy’s many upbeat events. Maya’s little sister Ayla loved the 5K Race and extended family and friends love those Pasta Dinners! Angels of Mercy continues to support myself and my family in our grieving process since Maya’s death in February from a heroin drug overdose. The emotional support from Mary Jo, Josie, Board Members and volunteers has helped me personally in an intensely heartfelt way especially through their spiritual guidance and prayers to Our Heavenly Father for my family. Mary Jo generously dedicated Dress-A-Girl’s May Event to our beloved Maya in remembrance of her loving spirit. We are eternally grateful.
Here is my story of how sewing dresses has been great therapy for the rough patches in my life.
I saw stories of the pillowcase dresses several years ago, and thought it was a great idea, but didn't act on it for a couple years. I began sewing for my own daughter as soon as she was born, and continued through toddler years, figure skating outfits, prom gowns, a wedding dress and maternity clothes. I have seven granddaughters and spent a great deal of time sewing for them when they were little, but, unfortunately they have grown and no longer desire 'Nana's' creations... when I saw an article in our Church bulletin a couple years ago I decided to see what it was all about. I love sewing, and designing, so I decided to give it a try as a worthwhile contribution. I started in Feb of 2015, and to date have made 853 dresses. Never a day goes by that I am not sewing or cutting fabric to sew. Somewhere along the line I began to realize that while I was doing something I felt was important for deserving children, I was also benefiting a great deal from the experience. While I was concentrating on making the world a better place, girl by girl, my own problems were pushed aside and I was peaceful. For the past two years my daily sewing session has helped me cope with a child's contentious divorce, my Mother's health decline and eventual death, my own diagnosis of breast cancer, and the following radiation treatments. And only this week turning to the sewing machine has soothed me during the illness and death of a beloved pet.
So you see, while I am helping this cause, this cause is also helping me! It's the best form of therapy I have ever found.
Dear Mary Jo,
From the first day I walked into Angels of Mercy's Doors I knew that this was where I was supposed to be to do my internship for Monroe Community College. I was welcomed in the door with hugs, that made me feel loved and cared about from that day forward. I enjoyed the work environment with all the volunteers and staff, we always laughed and were made to feel like part of a family instead of interns. I enjoyed going into the office and seeing what new adventure Mary Jo and Josie had put together to make Angels of Mercy strive to be successful. These women work very hard everyday to change the lives of woman and children in our community and across the globe and I am so very grateful to God for letting me have the opportunity to work with and become friends with such great woman.
Dear Mary Jo,
Thank you so much for the beautiful clothes we were able to get today. It is such a wonderful treat for me, and I know for Tera, too. I can't tell you enough how much it is appreciated. I felt like a princess trying on all the beautiful outfits. Thank you again Mary Jo, and I look forward to volunteering my time and giving back what has been so freely given to me.
Dear Mary Jo,
Thank you for what Dress A Girl means in my life. For the first time in a long time, I have a purpose in my life. I have experienced healing in my own life as a result of helping dress and protect little girls. There are peeople in my life that have been deeply hurt. Being a part of DAG is a way for me to give hope to others.
“The Road of Addiction and Trafficking”
Hi my name is Lacey Colligan. My mom, Mary Jo Colligan is the founder of Angels of Mercy. Angels of Mercy is a Safe Haven...A Safe Place.
More and more of these women are battling addiction of some kind. I have been in recovery since 7.8.06. The opioid crisis and drug crisis is just that…a CRISIS!
Drugs do not discriminate. Being on the street I saw drugs first hand being used to control others. Either it was the drug dealers controlling their corner boys
(on the look-out), the neighborhood addict to sell for them or the women to sweep the paraphernalia out with a broom.
There is also times when drugs are used as a tool in trafficking. There is a saying you can sell a person, unlike other things, over and over again. The drug you sell once. Drugs make it nearly impossible for the victim to fight back, but possible for the traffickers sales to go through.
There are many signs of drug use:
Change in friends
Change in weight
Change in behavior- mood and temper
Change in grades
Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants in warm temperatures
Problems with the law
Away from family
Traffickers come in all shapes and sizes.
Men, women and sometimes those are the same men and women who were trafficked themselves.
Drugs are an endless road of destruction. Many people start drugs to escape a life of abuse and pain. But no one starts drugs saying ‘I’m going to sell my body and lose everything and everyone I love’. The ugly truth is that it happens every day. Men and women sometimes prostitute themselves sometimes for $5. or $10. It is not unusual for women to be pregnant. Many of these addicts go into these situations thinking they will be given drugs. They are instead raped and left feeling more degraded than before. Their addiction is so bad.
When going back to the same place their hope is the dealers will keep the promise of selling drugs instead of the user being raped. The streets are very rough and most people on them stick together in a pack or with another. Drugs make people greedy and many times your friend or comforter, that you thought was a friend, ends up being your pimp. Once again the addict stays…not wanting to navigate the dangerous streets alone.
The first way to help in this crisis is to realize that not only is it happening…BUT…it is all around us. We must open our eyes. If you have not been addicted, maybe your family member or friend has.
We MUST fight the causes. Be kind to strangers because you never know what they are going through. Let’s be BETTER, let’s treat each other BETTER because… WE ARE BETTER!
By Lacey Colligan