OC: Sisterhood Helps Strengthen Community Bonds
By Dianne Anderson
This time of year, the Orange County Section of NCNW usually runs a myriad of community outreach festivities with accolades of appreciation for the many strong Black women who have devoted their entire lives to the cause.
That didn’t happen this year
Because of the virus, their organization had to put many such events on hold, and decided to donate the money to the food bank instead.
Joan Powell, president of OC-NCNW, said they are continuing to keep the circle of giving unbroken through the holidays, however virtual.
Crittenton House is another of their annual anchor projects.
“We can’t meet with people face to face, we’re trying to figure out ways either meeting in Zoom, or through donations. We’re also having a virtual party,” she said.
The organization is upholding its tradition of giving gently used or new purses for homeless women in Orange County, an effort affiliated with YWCA. They are now calling for purse donations, which they’ll with hygiene products, and distribute at three locations as part of their annual December projects.
Powel is also excited about their week long Kwanzaa events honoring African heritage and contributions of local organizations.
“Each day is going to be designated to an organization or a church in Orange County. Each night is going to be designated to a principle and to an organization or church that will present that principle,” she said.
Kwanzaa starts Saturday, December 26, and runs to January 1, 2021. She said the Pan-Hellenic Council, sometimes called the Divine Nine, sororities and fraternities will meet, including the New Spirit Church, the OC Heritage Foundation, and 100 Black Women of Orange County, among several others.
Held virtually, the event runs a half-hour during the day, along with a night program to celebrate with families and friends at home.
Melanie Grant, chapter Kwanzaa event organizer, said they are partnering with an organization to present the guiding principle in the evening.
“There is a heavy emphasis on our African heritage, and there will be things about particular countries and ethnic groups in Africa,” said Grant. “We’re going to have some fun activities to win prizes. We’re going all out to celebrate Kwanzaa.”
For her organization, which is often known for its social butterflies, being stuck inside seems odd enough.
Although these times are difficult, there is one upside.
She said the sisters are starting to reach out more to each other, they are connecting even though it’s not in person.
“We’re getting to know each other better, we’re meeting online, and people are more so calling each other. We’re able to provide each other with greater support. The bond of sisterhood in a time like this is when you really need it,” she said.
Sybella Ferguson-Patten is in charge of working with the girls at Crittenton Services for Children and Families, and hopes to bring back some of old school holiday spirit with snacks and holiday treats, and virtual games.
“With the pandemic raging, the last we visited the girls in person was in February,” she said. “Visits were canceled. Everyone was holding their breath waiting for things to return to normal. It didn’t.”
At that point, the goal was to maintain virtual connections. They forged ahead, seeking activities that the girls might enjoy. It turned out that the electronic version of Bingo was surprisingly a hit.
Crittenton is a group home catering to young mothers and girls that have been in the juvenile system or need mental health services.
Ferguson-Patten is hosting another virtual visit to teach them how to make handmade cards. Before Christmas, she plans to drop off pancake mix at the facility for an online cookoff with toppings and flavorings for every appetite.
Her other project is decorating gift bags filled with fruit, nuts and candy to look like reindeers with big pom poms for the nose, artificial eyes and candy-cane horns. She wants to take the younger girls back down memory lane from her own childhood in rural North Carolina.
“We didn’t have much, but at Christmas time, parents would go all out. We’d visit people’s homes, and everybody had big baskets of fruit, nuts and candy.”
Many of the young women and girls of Crittenton are dealing with long term trauma and crises, but she believes that reaching out to them can leave an impression to last a lifetime.
“The main message we want the girls to get is whatever it takes for us to maintain communications and a connection to you. We’re willing to go above and beyond the call of duty because you are important enough to us.”
To find out more about dates and times, or to support NCNW with donations or purses, contact email at firstname.lastname@example.org or see https://www.facebook.com/OrangeCountyNCNW/