Prior to my time in Pittsburgh I spent a few years working with an organization that provided respite care for homeless men and women in Washington, D.C. Most would come in broken, and hurting by a life lived on the streets. Not infrequently, within a few days of receiving care, a new look would come across their faces.
Major problems don’t get solved in one day or even in a few weeks. But being cared for and the recognition that you are loved, can go a long way towards changing an attitude of hopelessness into a belief that more may just be possible. This is an approach that Denise Grave’s Extravagant Love Makeover Project has embraced by showering its participants with a day of attention, care, and, yes, love. Most of the big problems will still remain, but have no doubt: one day can indeed have a lasting impact for good.
What does Extravagant Love do?
On the surface, the Extravagant Love Project is a day of pampering each November for women who are in the midst of experiencing the most difficult sets of circumstances that life can throw at them. Women from shelters throughout the city are paired with volunteers who give them treatment that rivals the most luxurious spas in town. They spend the afternoon receiving manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, a new hairdo, and a new outfit. After this, they are whisked to a lavish ceremony hosted by the Pittsburgh Project, complete with dinner and a fashion show that allows the women to be the stars of the evening.
Where the Extravagant Love Makeover really makes its impact is in the genuine love with which these services are shared. It’s hard to really grasp the impact of what being made to feel special means to a person who’s life circumstances have put her in a place where she often ignored or rejected by the people around her.
The project’s founder, Denise Graves, works to make sure that all participants are the recipients of unconditional love throughout the day. Volunteers are prepped with training in regard to some of the how’s and why’s of homelessness, and are encouraged to allow natural friendship to grow as they remind the women that they are indeed loved.
Why do they do it?
Ms. Graves makes it clear that the Extravagant Love Makeover is the outflow of her faith in God and the love that she has received. Each of us has a story, and we truly have no idea what another person has gone through to lead her to the place that she is in life now. Even at our very lowest points, our stories are not over. As long as there is life there can be hope. Often it takes some real encouragement and a tangible expression of love to begin believing that.
Ms. Graves notes that so many of the messages we hear in the present day tend to break things down into categories of “us” and “them.” But with the Extravagant Love Makeover, volunteers are looking to embrace what she calls “the power of we”. We are all made in God’s image. We are all important, and we all deserve to be recipients of love.
How can you help?
With regards to immediate help, the needs are primarily financial. It takes a lot to organize this special day for the 100+ women who will have love lavished on them this November. The outfits, jewelry, and the full spa treatment are costly. If you are moved to help, donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated.
In the long term, there is a vision of growing the Extravagant Love Project here in Pittsburgh and in other cities. A plan for maintaining the relationships through ongoing friendships between the participants and volunteers is being developed. Conference weekends are being planned to help prepare volunteers and spread the vision to other locations.
To learn more, I’d recommend visiting the organization’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Extravagant-Love-Makeover-894707130599900/?fref=ts
You can reach out through their message button to find out about volunteering with, or donating to, this 501c3 organization.