Madison Street merchant, Deb Dworman, 62, owner of women’s clothing shop deedee & edee is no stranger to year-end holiday giving. Every year she holds “shopping parties” for local charities and donates a percentage of sales. But this year, Dworman changed her strategy. She gave $12,000 worth of new women’s clothing directly to Sarah’s Inn, a crisis center in Oak Park for women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse.

“Several of the Sarah’s Inn board members are my customers, and we’ve done shopping parties for them. They were having a fundraiser [down Madison Street] at House Red and I went over and talked to them. I told them I’ve got new clothing and shoes that I’d like to donate.”

Before Christmas, Dworman gathered cold weather garments: sweaters, coats, hats, scarves and gloves Ð all new merchandise Ð and brought them to the shelter. She also donated work attire in sizes 2-16 as well as casual clothes. She also brought casual and dress shoes.

“They told me they are looking for professional looks for women. A lot of these women are now trying to get a job and going through a life-change. Everything I donated was in-season for fall and winter clothing.” Off-the-rack, the clothing was worth $25,000, said Dworman.

As she’s learned more about Sarah’s Inn, Dworman said she realized how much the women could use a boost from new clothes. “A female police officer who shops at my store told me these women come from an abusive home and sometimes leave everything behind but the shirt on their back. [The officer] told me having a new article of clothing would be a bright spot in their day. Sometimes they’re so beaten down.”

Sarah’s Inn opened in 1981 in Oak Park as an emergency shelter and provider of crisis services to women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. The shelter provides services to women from Austin and the West Side of Chicago as well as 22 suburban communities including Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest, Berwyn Elmwood Park, Franklin Park and other nearby towns. Sarah’s Inn provides a 24-hour crisis line, counseling, support and education groups, childcare, legal services and emergency financial assistance.

Dworman, who’s run deedee & edee for five years, says the donations are partially a business tax write-off. But she says she enjoys giving to people who can use her merchandise. Last year she gave $20,000 worth of high-quality fabric she had formerly used to manufacture scarves to the Dominican University fashion department. Students used the fabric for spring senior projects, says Dworman. “I got to attend their fashion show and see the long ball gowns the students made with the fabric I gave them.”

Dworman is an active merchant on Madison Street who will step up as the new president of the Chamber of Commerce in January, 2012. She lives in Oak Park, but loves Forest Park. “We’d move to Forest Park if we could sell our house [in Oak Park]. It’ll be back on the market in spring. I enjoy retail. I love my customers. I’ll be around for a while.”

For more information or to donate to or volunteer at Sarah’s Inn, visit website:

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...