Story by Steven Lindsey. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Kim Olusanya has long been a successful businesswoman, but it’s her nonprofit Action with Compassion Dallas, Inc. where she finds true joy—by empowering others to achieve success and happiness in its many incarnations. The organization puts on events for the community, including fashion shows and art exhibitions, that serve as fundraisers to support a variety of programs and services for those who have experienced or are currently dealing with acts of domestic violence.
Olusanya was once in that situation herself.
“There’s a lot of shame that goes with admitting that you were in an abusive relationship,” she says. “I still think it’s valuable for people to see me as a person who came through an abusive relationship and survived, and came out of the other side thriving.”
She says she started Action with Compassion Dallas to prove that there’s no shame in being a victim and that you can become a whole person after that experience. In short, she wanted to be the face of success after violence.
The organization’s first event was a fashion show because she believes that women gain confidence through fashion and she wanted to be able to donate clothes to shelters that went beyond emergency basics so that women could feel empowered.
So it was a natural fit for her to partner with The Family Place, a nonprofit that also works with victims of family violence to help them lead lives free from abuse. Part of her reason for joining forces with them was because of their location.
“I grew up in Pleasant Grove, which is a poor side of town. I’m truly an example of where you start does not mean where you’re going to finish. And so I looked for a facility that provided services for women that have some socioeconomic problems, disadvantages as well because I felt like them seeing me would be more impactful for them.”
When she visits women who are sheltering temporarily in safe houses—sometimes up to 40 women at one location—she returns to her belief that fashion can be a transformative experience, from the outside in.
“We bring in hair stylists, makeup artists, fashion stylists that style them in the clothes. We bring in volunteers to help with the kids because most of the ladies in the shelter have their kids there as well,” she says, adding that helping with the children allows the women to enjoy themselves and take full advantage of the services her organization provides.
Action with Compassion Dallas’ next clothing drive takes place on Sunday, August 21 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the DON P Agency, 2242 Monitor Street, Suite 170 in Dallas. People are invited to bring clothing that day and stick around for light bites and socializing. However, she has high standards for what she gives these women in need and asks donors to keep that in mind.
“Generally, when you clean out your closet, it’s just your comfy clothes or out-of-style items you are looking to get rid of. Those aren’t the clothes that I give to these ladies. Let’s say I have an amazing dress or pair of pants I’ve been hanging onto because I’m waiting to lose 10 pounds to get back in that item. Girl, we all know you aren’t going to lose that weight,” Olusanya says with a laugh.
“Give those pants to a woman in need that can really use them right now. These women are already broken. You know, they’ve been displaced from their homes, sometimes with just the clothes on their back. And so I don’t ever want to give them what I’m done with, you know? They already feel like they are worthless and cast off. I don’t want the items we are giving them to add to those feelings of low self-esteem.”
New or gently used slacks, blouses, shoes, jewelry, handbags, and other career attire are in greatest demand.
Though clothing is only one component of getting women back on their feet and the overall healing process, Olusanya truly hopes the services that she and her organization provide show that it is possible to come out the other side a stronger person, which may include finding love with someone who truly values them.
“I’m happily married to a man that literally paints me and takes pictures of me. Almost daily. I have a 10-year-old daughter. I have two very, very successful companies’ and I’m happy. Life is good,” she says. “I am extremely happy and at peace with myself and I’m healthy. My cup is overflowing so I’m constantly trying to pour into others to make room for more in my own cup.”
Action with Compassion Dallas Inc. funds a variety of programs, including a clothing drive for The Family Place on August 21. For more information, go to www.compassiondallas.org/.