More Than One Way To Be Generous – Thank You Clean Kits!

Clean Kit makes a donation to NEW
                                                                     Clean Kits makes a donation to NEW

In a region full of overachievers, Areej Khan and Palak Shah still impress with the generosity and magnitude of their clear-eyed vision.

Khan and Shah are high school seniors who saw the need and came up with the idea of Clean Kits. They now regularly collect, assemble, and donate hygiene kits to homeless women. Which is how we met them—they approached and donated 170 kits, each containing a bar of soap and 10 tampons and pads.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. How do a pair of 18-year olds get to this juncture? “It was a school project. We were asked to find a problem, do the research, and come up with the solution,” Shah says. “And I wanted to partner with someone who was just as dedicated.” Conveniently, Shah and Khan have known each other since freshman year, so a partnership made sense. But still, how did it get from school project to real life? “Well, what’s the point of doing all this research and not taking action?” So they did.

A year later, they’ve handed out 750 kits in DC, Fairfax and Loudon counties.

(l to r) Areej Khan, Tracy Frish of NEBW, Palak Shah
                                                          (l to r) Areej Khan, Tracy Frish of NEW, Palak Shah

Why hygiene kits? “Because people don’t think of it,” Khan says. “All the drives focus on canned food and clothing, which are certainly important. But no one thinks of this aspect of hygiene, which is equally important. I think it just hasn’t been done more because among other things, it doesn’t occur to half the population. And those who do think about it, don’t always talk about it.”

Ah yes, the stigma of menstruation. Except Khan and Shah took the first step, and faced it head on. “If you said that homeless people need a toothbrush or soap, no one would argue,” Khan says. “This isn’t any different. It’s about health and hygiene. When we presented it that way, no one disagreed.”

Areej Khan (l) and Palak Shan (r) of
Areej Khan (l) and Palak Shah (r) of

Khan and Shah are headed to college in the fall, one to Virginia Tech, the other to VCU. But they have plans in place to sustain the Clean Kit project. They already have a schedule and check-off lists in place. Their plan is to restock kits every 3 to 6 months based on an organization’s need—in addition to the soap, tampons, and pads, the next batch will also contain a small wash cloth and five plastic bags. They are now assembling a team so they can go from outreach to delegation and a wider area of service. If anything, they plan to expand donations to Richmond, where VCU is located. And yes, they are already in the process of establishing a non-profit with 501c3 tax deductible status, courtesy of one parent who happens to be a financial advisor.

They have two reasons for forming a non-profit, apart from the obvious. “People are more comfortable donating to a non-profit. But more than that, there didn’t seem to be that many grants we could apply to for this one thing.”

One more thing—the Clean Kits come in cloth drawstring bags. “They’re reusable, and that way the women have something in which to keep the few things they have.” It’s certainly a big step up from the stereotypical garbage bag.

Until their paperwork comes through, Khan and Shah continue to gather donations through word of mouth. You can find out more about Clean Kit online at and donate at

Cynthia Rowe: Busting Stereotypes, Doing The Work, And Prevailing

image courtesy of Andrea Vallejos/Flickr Creative Commons
image courtesy of Andrea Vallejos/Flickr Creative Commons

Cynthia Rowe — who will be recognized with the NEW Light Alumna Award at our gala next month — busts many stereotypes that persist about the homeless. She is educated, has a daughter about to graduate college, worked at big name companies that provided retirement plans. She comes from a large family with whom she is still very much in touch. And although she may not have had a consistent roof over her head while homeless, she was never without safe shelter. “I couch-surfed,” she says matter-of-factly.

So what is her story? How does someone with that many factors in favor of stability come to NEW? Read more

“Where Does The Money Go?”

“Where does the money go?”

It’s a fair question for donors to ask, one we’re happy to answer! The numbers are stark. Humbling, really, for those of us who do not go without. Even if we’re on a budget. Read more

Give To NEW’s 2016 Spring Challenge By May 18 And Win Nats Tickets

Washington_NationalsOur executive director, Wanda Steptoe said something moving last month when the first shoots of determined green emerged in the first flush of spring. “Like the tulips,” she said, “the women of are always pushing forward insistently, bent on showing their beauty and thriving in the world around us.” Read more

NEW Alum Petrina Williams: “I Chose Joy.”

Petrina Williams, with her son Jordan Alexander Williams

The words “remarkable” and “survivor” routinely apply to NEW alumna. Even so, Petrina Williams breaks the mold. Like many NEW aluma, Williams, now a NEW board member, has been through challenges that would fell the rest of us. Yet as she talks about her experiences with matter-of-fact honesty, she radiates happiness and a joy for living. For example, her outgoing voicemail message, where you can practically hear her smile, invites you to “Have a great day—on purpose!” No doubt, it is that upbeat attitude that has carried Williams through life. And what a life it has been.  Read more

NEW Board Chair Retires After 23 Years of Service

Wanda Steptoe with Anne Raffaelli

New Endeavors by Women recognizes the outstanding service of Board Chair, Anne Raffaelli, whose term comes to a close at the end of 2015, after 23 years.

As a non-profit organization, the work of our Board Members is incredibly valuable to the success of our organization. Thank you to Anne for her hard work, generous support, and commitment to building a strong and effective organization. Through her tireless efforts, strategic thinking and innovative ideas, NEW has grown immensely.

We’re so grateful for her service and dedication to NEW, our mission, and our programs! We’ll miss you!