Viola’s House adds new program to its education outreach in effort to provide basic services to underserved community
By Sriya Reddy
Thana Hickman-Simmons said that the mothers she works with deserve to shop with dignity.
Her South Dallas-based organization, Viola’s House, helps mothers with young children by providing resources, education and housing.
Its newest addition is the Baby Benefit Boutique, opening on Saturday, which allows mothers of children under 3 to shop for free through a voucher-based program. Mothers can take parenting and pregnancy classes taught by Viola’s House to receive the vouchers.
“It’s hard enough that you need a voucher to shop,” Hickman-Simmons said. “We don’t want them to feel like that. We want them to have self esteem while educating themselves. We call it ‘earn while you learn.’”
In 2021, Viola’s House served over 3,800 mothers who visited the home over 13,000 times. According to its annual report, 70 percent of the mothers it serves are housing insecure and over 90 percent are people of color.
Hickman-Simmons said with the boutique, it expects to double those numbers. Now, Viola’s House can support mothers who live all across Dallas through virtual classes and shipping options for clothing.
The idea came from the number of moms that would visit the house who needed clothes at the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, Hickman-Simmons would put two outfits in a ziploc bag to hand out to the moms, alongside other resources like diapers, formula and wipes.
Eventually she wanted to do more.
“Initially, I was thinking I could open a low-cost thrift store for mothers to get the clothing. But the further we got into the pandemic, I saw that if mothers couldn’t even afford diapers, how could they possibly afford clothing?” Hickman-Simmons said.
Hickman-Simmons said it was important for the shopping experience to feel empowering.
“The first thing that I told the designer is, ‘I want this to look like a store that me and you would shop in,’ ” she said. ” ‘I want it to feel beautiful and I want it to look like a boutique.’ “
Yully Alarcon, a mother of two, said that everything Viola’s House brought her was a blessing. Hickman-Simmons’s idea of the boutique is another blessing for her.
“The babies grow up so fast, and we don’t have money to buy clothes every month,” Alarcon said. “We feel excited because — clothes — it is the best idea.”
She learned about Viola’s House while struggling through her first pregnancy. Alarcon said that she remembers coming to the house for the first time four years ago and immediately feeling cared for.
In those four years, she took English classes at Dallas College, received support after having multiple surgeries, and built up her confidence, all with the help of the Viola’s House team.
Alarcon said the opening of the boutique on Saturday couldn’t come fast enough.