From the beginning, the forecast for 2012 was bleak-- the economy was sluggish, the nation was divided by a bitter presidential campaign, and, of course, the world was going to end on December 21. (Cheers, it did not.)
But for 12 Valley women, the gloom of 2012 was a call to action to bring positive change to their community.
"This was a movement created to counteract the doom and gloom, to connect women, and to create beauty in the community," says Sara Regester, a Valley nurse and the group's coordinator.
Regester says she and her friends met for coffee one morning in early January after a yoga class to discuss ways they could give back to their communities and empower women in 2012.
The group, part of an international movement called 12 Women for 2012, decided to make a difference this year by renovating the ladies' bathroom at a homeless center in Phoenix.
One of the group's members, Jessica Berg, is the executive director of Lodestar Day Resource Center, part of a network of organizations working to end homelessness in downtown Phoenix. She suggested the women renovate Lodestar's women's bathroom, which was functional but by no means beautiful.
"The bathroom was designed to prison standards," says Kris Floor, a landscape designer and 12 Women's project manager. "There was nothing feminine about the bathroom."
Floor helped ensure that the project stayed on track and on budget. She says the project will be completed by the end of January 2013 when 12 Women will unveil the mosaic frame.
The center serves more than 4,500 homeless adults annually, providing individuals with services such as legal documentation, job development, mental health services and substance abuse counseling.
Michael Tapscott, Lodestar's special projects manager, said 12 Women exemplifies the type of volunteers that the center needs because the group proposed a project and saw it through to the end.
"For people to come in and say 'Woohoo! We are going to redo a bathroom,' is really incredible and it really lifts our spirits," Tapscott says. "The 12 Women came in and probably helped 1,200 women."
Misty Oxborrow, special events coordinator at Lodestar, says the most basic and essential service the center provides is a place for homeless people to use the restroom -- and it is for this reason that 12 Women's project is so important.
"It's about helping them to feel like women again, not just lost souls," Oxborrow says. "The bathroom lacked dignity and we just wanted to give [the women] a place that was theirs."
Oxborrow says the majority of women Lodestar works with have been severely mentally or physically traumatized and are in need of affection and nurturing.
Together, 12 Women worked to improve this bathroom and make it more beautiful and peaceful for the women who use it.
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Improvements to the bathroom include a 10-foot tall mosaic made by the 12 Women with the help of Lodestar clients and staff, new stall partitions, new flooring, new sink mirrors, improved lighting, a shelf above the sink for toiletries, a purse hook, an original wall mural, and new toilet paper holders.
Oxborrow says people have asked her if a new bathroom really does help individuals overcome homelessness.
"I really believe that it does," she says. "Sometimes it's just the simple act of human kindness and maybe, likely, that person has never experienced this act of kindness. And that can make all the difference in the world."