FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Melody Allen has a passion for bears.
Dozens of them are stacked on a couch usually reserved for visiting officials and business partners of the engineering firm Freese & Nichols.
“I think it’s the best use this lobby’s ever had,” company president Bob Pence jokes. “My office is on the 3rd floor, and I’ll come down here just to see what Melody’s collecting.”
Allen’s passion has spilled out across the company’s Fort Worth lobby and spilled out on to her co-workers. They have gathered over 100 stuffed bears to donate to the Women’s Center of Tarrant County.
The bears are part of a program the center started over 20 years ago to comfort rape and abuse victims that arrive at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth. The women are given a bear and a change of clothing by a counselor.
“A bear is something they (the women) can hang on to,” said Twila Randles, the rape crisis coordinator with the center.
“Many times these victims are not able to talk to the people, but they are able to love on the bear,” said Allen.
Last year, Randles says, the center handed out nearly 600 bears to women and children. So they always have a need to keep them in stock.
That’s where Melody Allen comes in.
Allen started collecting the bears for The Women’s Center in 2004. Once a year she collects and delivers the bears. She points out buying bears is all about timing. “They are always out around Christmas and Valentine’s Day.”
She spends her weekends buying bears with money collected from co-workers and donations. “We buy out stores, and we even go to the Build-A-Bear store to get them,” she said.
In addition to bears, each month she organizes a ‘wish list’ collection for the center at her office.
“We know that we’re not going to run out of something that we need,” said Randles. “It’s just wonderful to know we can count on her.”
Allen’s work has been recognized by both her company and the center. The Women’s Center recently dedicated their volunteer office to her.
But she says it’s not the accolades that drive her, it’s knowing she’s helping women regain a sense of control. “In my journey over the past 8 years shopping for bears I’ve had two ladies ask me what a shopping cart of bears were for. It turns out both ladies were recipients of the bears. So they were back out there, they had their self esteem back.”
To learn more about The Women’s Center of Tarrant County, or to make donations, you can contact them at (817) 927-4006, or visit their website at womenscentertc.org.