Try and remember how good it felt the last time you spent a day pampering yourself, shopping, and finally sitting down with loved ones for a sumptuous dinner. Now, try and imagine you were homeless.
On November 12th, more than 100 homeless Pennsylvania women will get a taste of the fabulous life when Denise Graves, worship pastor at Covenant Church in Pittsburgh will host the “Extravagant Love Makeover” for the fifth year in a row. The annual charity project provides abused and homeless women who live in Pittsburgh shelters with full makeovers, followed by a red-carpet arrival to a lavish dinner.
“When you see the women, after they’ve been all dolled up for the evening, the difference is amazing,” says Graves. “These women, who otherwise have absolutely nothing, absolutely light up.”
The idea for the Extravagant Love Makeover (ELM, for short) was inspired by a trip Graves’ church took to New York City. While there, Graves witnessed a similar event, which left a lasting impression. Following the trip, Graves’ friend Kelly Jones approached her about bringing the makeover to Pittsburgh.
Graves was already well versed in outreach, having worked with local organizations to provide 14,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area children and to provide Christmas to children who live in local orphanages. She told herself that if it was meant to be, she would find a way.
“I was already used to working on these projects without having any money,” she says. “But my motto has always been, ‘If it’s in God’s heart, then it’s God’s burden.”
Graves got to work, and organizations and individuals soon began volunteering their time, money and talents to make the makeover happen. The first year, the ELM welcomed 70 women; today, that number has nearly doubled. She now has more than 200 active volunteers from all over the city, and actually finds herself having to turn volunteers away.
“It’s an absolute miracle that we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve done,” says Graves.
Following their head-to-toe makeovers, guests choose new outfits and are then transported to dinner at the Pittsburgh Project on the city’s North Side, where they’re greeted by a throng of well-wishers, receive a long-stemmed red rose and walk the red carpet into the building. Inside, they’re treated to a lavish dinner, music and entertainment, and participate in a fashion show. Each woman also receives a goody bag full of personal care items and more.
ELM has now filed for non-profit status, and Graves hopes to take the program nationwide.
“When you see how much this event helps these women, it’s beautiful,” she says. “They realize that despite everything, they are strong, powerful and still standing. It’s a small reminder that they are still worthy, and that people still care.”
For more information about the Extravagant Love Makeover, visit denisegraves.net.