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Pay It Forward: Local woman providing fresh start for women of domestic violence

"I don't want any woman to feel like they have to go back into a situation like that because they can't provide for themselves or their children."

MUSCATINE, Iowa — A Muscatine woman is leading a donation project for a local women's domestic violence shelter.

Mary Whitacre, 69, formed the 'women helping women' group through her church in Muscatine.

"Let's give them a boost, give them something to start setting up a household so they can be successful," Whitacre said.

"Mary is a true gem in Muscatine," shelter supervisor Judy Yates said.

Whitacre buys laundry baskets on a monthly basis and fills them with household items including toiletries and food.

The tubs are delivered to women who are leaving the shelter as they prepare to move forward in life.

"We try to put things in there so they feel better about themselves," Whitacre said.

Whitacre coordinates with a group of church members on a donation list.

"Can openers, dish towels and dish cloths," Whitacre said.

Whitacre said more than 50 baskets have been delivered to the shelter so far and around 20 women benefit from each one.

"When our clients come, they literally come with the shirts on their back," Yates said.

As part of the shelter's 'new beginning' fundraiser, the baskets provide essential items to help the women get back on their feet.  

"They feel that they are not worthy or capable of dealing with the situation on their own," Whitacre said. 

The tubs also includes special hand-written notes of inspiration and bracelets with quotes. 

"It always has a message of hope on it," Whitacre said. "God is within her, she will not fail."

"I'm glad there's people like Mary who want to help," pay it forward nominator Gloria Casas said.

"It brings our clients to tears that somebody cares," Yates said.

Whitacre said a number of church members also provide gift cards and cash as a donation. 

"Gloria, thank you for nominating Mary Whitacre," Alvaro Macias with Ascentra Credit Union said. You know Ascentra was founded on the philosophy of people helping people, so it is with great pleasure that we'd like to shine a light on the work that she's doing with the women helping women project. It's in line with our values of listening, caring and doing what's right, and for that reason I'd like to present you with $300 so that you may pay it forward. Congratulations!"

"Mary, on behalf of WQAD and Ascentra Credit Union, we want to present you with $300 for all the work you do for the women at the shelter; you deserve it," Casas said.

After Mary was presented with the award, she instantly said the money would be going to the shelter.

"Oh my goodness! Thank you! And I can give this to the shelter?"

Whitacre said she's grateful as she looks back on her life.

"I grew up in a really safe, loving household," Whitacre said. "I just couldn't imagine not feeling safe with those people that are supposed to love you."

Whitacre said she will continue to spread love for anyone going through tough times.

"I don't want any woman to feel like they have to go back into a situation like that because they can't provide for themselves or their children," Whitacre said.

The project is run out of Wesley United Methodist Church located at 400 Iowa Ave in Muscatine.

A 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 563-263-8080. 

If you know someone you'd like to nominate for the Pay It Forward Award, click here.