By Pam Marino
A chance conversation with a complete stranger and a college assignment are propelling Lisa Blanchard on an unexpected trajectory as the leader of a fast growing all-volunteer organization that extends comfort and aid to sexual assault victims across the State of California.
Thanks to The Grateful Garment Project, started by Blanchard in March 2011 as an undergraduate student, sexual assault victims who must give up clothing as police evidence can go home fully clothed. In the past some victims left examinations with nothing more than a paper hospital gown.
“I had no idea when I started my simple class project that I was hitting a vein of need that was so immense, that basically it’s consumed my life for the past year,” said Blanchard, a San Jose resident and University of San Francisco graduate student.
The Grateful Garment Project has grown into a full-blown nonprofit with a board of directors, numerous volunteers, and Blanchard as its unpaid executive director.
Besides clothing, The Grateful Garment Project provides toiletries, snacks, and other items for victims who undergo examinations at Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) facilities in 15 counties.
Exams can last anywhere from three and a half to 10 hours, depending on whether victims need medical treatment. Victims include both males and females, and range in age from infants to senior citizens, with the most common age range being 12 to 24 years.
The group also secures implements and other tools used by SART employees during the examination process.
Blanchard says even she is amazed at how her life took such an unexpected turn from a path toward becoming a psychiatrist to a new path toward nonprofit executive director, after meeting the stranger who introduced her to the idea of helping sexual assault victims.
Find out how a 15-minute chance conversation catapulted Blanchard toward The Grateful Garment Project on Good Neighbor Stories.