TenderLove Community Center was founded in 2010 in Georgia with a far reaching goal of providing shelter to homeless and the elderly. It was transferred to New Mexico in 2011, and Executive Director Debbie Johnson spent 2 years researching the availability and effectiveness of similar ideas in the Albuquerque area. Discovering that there were few options for homeless and low income women to receive training outside an academic environment, Debbie focused on making that her mission. In the summer of 2013, TenderLove Community Center first opened its doors to homeless and low income women to teach sewing skills while providing a safe place to be during the day when emergency shelters were closed.
The program started with 23 applicants and a handful of volunteers. The first program year, 2013-14 was a learning year, during which we identified several issues the women were facing that we could address, issues that we would like to be able to address, and issues over which we had no control.
Our facility was too small, with too few working sewing machines, so we moved to a larger building and acquired more sewing machines through some local organizations and through donations.
In October 2014, we celebrated the graduation of eight women from our program, each wearing graduation gowns they had made for themselves. The women who graduated, and many women who moved on from the program prior to graduating all commented that the program helped them to regain their self-esteem, achieve a new outlook on their lives and feel confident going forward.
We’ve introduced an alterations program, to help women earn money while in the program. We are seeking out contract sewing jobs to help support the program and the women in it.
TenderLove Community Center has strong relationships with local shelters and transitional homes for women, and receives many referrals from these locations. We are building our relationships with other organizations that provide services that our women need.