Melanie Fulks-Kraus has been a dedicated volunteer and donor with The Bridge for more than five years. Founder of the Life After Laundry Ladies Club, she continues to spread her enthusiasm, encouragement, and positive messages throughout our entire organization in a variety of ways. After her most recent ‘Birthday Project’ saw handfuls of goodie bags distributed to our women in treatment, we knew we had to shine a spotlight on her devoted advocacy and support.
We sat down with Melanie to learn more about the social club she started in 2013, her involvement with The Bridge, and her views on the importance of getting involved and giving back to the community.
Tell me a bit about the Life After Laundry Ladies Club and how it got started…
I was a Girl Guide growing up and I learned from a young age that you can make a difference by volunteering. I started the Life After Laundry Ladies Club in 2013 which is a non-profit, non-registered social group because I really wanted to empower and encourage other busy women to get out and have some fun and support the community at the same time! We’ve been doing events and projects for 9 years now that range from 12 to 250 women of all different ages! Sometimes our events are for children and families as well. I really wanted my own children to grow up and remember the projects we did together. Event proceeds are always gifted in different ways to local individuals and charities. The bulk of our work is with families and children who need a little boost or encouragement like a treat or grocery card. It has been such an honour to take on some of the projects with The Bridge!
How did you get involved with The Bridge?
The Bridge is way bigger and does way more than people realize, it’s actually amazing. So right there being a community person and wanting to use my resources, I just wanted people to know more. It all fell into place. I know Kelly Paley from our scrapbooking days, and she had told me about how The Bridge, within their employee group, had done this Christmas Project where they gathered some toiletries, treats, and other items together for their participants. The second year of this project, they trusted me to carry it out. I will continue to do this Christmas Project as long as I live or as long as they’ll have me.
How have you developed the Christmas Project over the years?
I now call it the Christmas Recovery Project, and I think we’ve been doing it for four or five years. The first year, The Bridge gave me a cheque to help pay for the items, and then I thought ‘mmm nope, that’s not happening again.’ If I don’t know 30 or 40 people that will put together a bag, I have zero friends in this world. So I put the call out every year on my personal and Life After Laundry Ladies Club Facebook Page and we fill the bags full of full-sized toiletries, Christmas treats, and some small gifts like playing cards and journals. Adults need goodie bags too!
The last couple of years I also organized a ladies fall social to raise money for the project. One year, Fabricland gave us a huge deal on some fleece fabric so we fixed up the ends and wrapped up little blankets because that’s like a hug. So those went into the bags. And then I got a great discount on some local hoodies for the bags the next year, because those are like a hug too. It has made my Christmases as an adult amazing every year.
Did Covid have any effect on the project's success this last year?
I thought, ‘how am I going to do this, and how can I not do this.’ I knew I had to do things a little differently because of Covid, so I made a video and posted it on my Facebook page that all you need to do is click like to participate and fill a bag! I put it out there and it was insane; within a day and a half I had all 38 bags needed AND all 38 hoodies purchased. Crazy. I’m shaking right now reliving it, I just couldn’t believe it. I’m very humbled and honoured to be this little platform in this community.
You’ve continued to support our participants even after the holidays, can you share a bit about your most recent project?
My birthday was a couple months ago and my teenage daughter kept bugging me about what I wanted to do. So I organized birthday goodie bags and they were full again! I did a call out and most of the ladies who contributed I knew, but some I didn’t and that is SO awesome. I love that. So again I delivered these and I didn’t know what to expect. I just tried to relay the message that I’m your neighbour down the street, I’m not from a certain organization or anything, and that a bunch of women in your community and I wanted to encourage and treat you. I had this positive message I was so so serious about giving, sharing where these goodie bag items are coming from, and you could just see my heart and my message was coming through to the participants. That’s just so powerful. If that’s not women empowerment, I don’t know what is. I kind of finished and I’m talking to one of the staff asking if that was okay and over on the patio the residents had organized to sing me happy birthday. That was the icing on the cake.That right there tells me you get me. I’m here to treat you because you’re worth it. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.
Why is it important for you to give back to your community and specifically The Bridge?
I don’t know why it hits me so much, but it really does. I’ve had people ask me why I would do [the Christmas project] and to that I say ‘why wouldn’t I?’ These youth and adults are choosing, they’re CHOOSING to be in recovery and they just happen to be there at Christmas. The Bridge is so thankful, but I’m so thankful! I feel like a team member with them. Without them I could never do this. A staff member said to me years ago, you’re not only gifting [the participants] and lifting them up. You’re really helping support the staff as well. It’s these moments that change my life.
What would you say to someone who wanted to give back but wasn’t sure where to start?
The first thing that comes to my mind, I’ve said for years, if you have an idea or have a passion, message me. Maybe two heads are better than one. Ask me or message me or phone The Bridge. You could phone them and I’m sure they’d put you through to someone who would help you. The first thing is to ask.
It doesn’t have to be a huge organization for these things. A $5 or $10 gift card to Tim Hortons so participants can go walk independently and get a coffee... I've always said that something small to someone can mean something big to someone else!
What can we look forward to with the Life After Laundry Ladies Club?
I have a huge event on the back burner that was postponed due to the pandemic. I always do an event because I want to or a friend has an idea. It has to mean something to me first before I put time and energy into it. Sometimes I think we have to challenge ourselves even when we don’t want to. This event is going to be on body positivity. It’s going to be BIG. I’m nervous and excited, I think it’s really needed. There’s always a portion of tickets from every single event I host that are gifts so everybody of all walks of life and challenges can attend if they’re interested in it. I’m hoping we can do it in Spring 2022.
We can’t thank Melanie enough for dedicating so much of her time and energy to making sure our staff and participants feel cared for. She is absolutely right when she talks about how a little can go a long way, and something so small can still mean so much to someone else. You can learn more about the Life After Laundry Ladies Club by heading to their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/LifeAfterLaundryLadiesClub.
If you would like to learn more about getting involved with The Bridge or creating your own event in support of our programs and participants, please reach out to Kelly Paley at email@example.com.