[theshorthorn.com] Sorority arranges flip-flops donation for care packages given to sexual assault survivors

by Rebekah Hicks —Transparent large plastic bags bulged with teal and neon pink flip-flops at the Alpha Chi Omega house Monday night, as they made the switch from the back of vehicles belonging to Old Navy representatives to the car of Tracy Matheson, president and founder of Project Beloved.

Project Beloved is an organization based out of Fort Worth that has the mission to educate, advocate and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors of domestic violence and assault to find their voices.

Photo by Elias Valverde II - Alpha Chi Omega members and public relations sophomore Alexa Reed, left, political science freshman Alondra Padron, center, and psychology junior Michelle Gonzalez help move flip-flop donations to a car Oct. 29 outside of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house on Greek Row Drive. Several sorority members took time to listen to the background of Project Beloved and help move donations.

Photo by Elias Valverde II - Alpha Chi Omega members and public relations sophomore Alexa Reed, left, political science freshman Alondra Padron, center, and psychology junior Michelle Gonzalez help move flip-flop donations to a car Oct. 29 outside of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house on Greek Row Drive. Several sorority members took time to listen to the background of Project Beloved and help move donations.

UTA’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter created a bridge between Old Navy and Project Beloved to make a donation of over 400 flip-flops for care packages that Project Beloved creates for victims, said Bridget Jones, Old Navy senior business operations manager.

Sydney Johnson, Alpha Chi Omega member and advertising and public relations sophomore double major, found Project Beloved through her heart surgeon and reached out to see how she could help, she said.

She had been wanting to be active and volunteer with anything to do with heart health or domestic violence, and when she heard about this, it perfectly aligned with her sorority’s philanthropy, Johnson said.

Project Beloved makes “beloved bundles” for women that have just had a rape kit done in a hospital and have practically nothing to clothe or care for themselves with because their clothes have been secured for rape evidence, Matheson said.

These bundles consist of a brush, loose-fitting pants, a t-shirt, undergarments, a hygiene kit, a journal and flip-flops.

Johnson reached out to every major clothing store that she could think of because she realized that winter clothes were in season, so flip-flops are now on sale, she said.

“We don’t think about it as, like, something we need, but when you do a rape kit, they take everything away from you, so that’s something that they really need,” she said.

Project Beloved only began in May and has taken 100 beloved bundles to different women’s centers, 50 bundles in Dallas and 50 more in Orlando, Florida, Matheson said. 

Johnson and a couple Alpha Chi Omega members helped at a Project Beloved benefit before this donation was made, getting further involved with the organization. A week or so before this, they had called Matheson to inform her that flip-flops had been gathered and were ready to donate.

“It just happened,” Matheson said as she smiled. “You know, people come across my path that, um, you know, it’s like OK I need to know them, and it gave us flip-flops.”

Johnson reached out to Old Navy, and Old Navy shifted gears to get this done, Jones said.

Jones said that it was dear to her heart because she knows several rape victims, so she wanted to do this because she understands what this feels like for women.

“We immediately partnered up together, and then we were able to get these flip-flops for those girls,” Jones said.

Old Navy employees from Dallas and Fort Worth came together to purchase as many flip-flops as they possibly could, said Arness Williams, Old Navy general manager and district community leader.

“Our hope is that the beloved bundle is just this little tangible something to restore dignity so they can walk out of the hospital feeling like somebody cares,” Matheson said.