Tuesday, April 16, 2013 , Updated 12:00 p.m., April 19, 2013
Society of Women Who Love Shoes uses fashion to spread positive message about domestic abuse
Where high heels not only raise your height, but also your self esteem.
PLANO Dianne Samoff knows the seriousness of domestic violence firsthand.
For 10 years, she and her four children were stuck in Louisiana with her abusive husband. But by 1982, she had enough and moved to Dallas to try to get a job to support a new life for herself and her children.
"I had borrowed a pair of high heels and a suit, and the high heels happened to be red," she said. "That morning, when I was getting dressed for the interview, I put on the suit, and of course that made [me] feel good, but then putting on those red high heels just gave me the strength; and I did well in the interview and got the job."
Dianne was able to save enough money for an apartment and brought her children, who were staying with her parents in Louisiana, to Dallas. She event met a man who would in a few short years become her husband, Roger Samoff, a Dallas native living in Houston.
Through she was able to rebuild her life, she never forgot the moment when she slipped on that pair of red high heels. In 2005, she started an informal organization in Houston to help victims of domestic violence. It aimed to replace the solemnity associate with domestic violence fundraising with a fun atmosphere that captured the moment of empowerment she experienced more than two decades prior.
Six years later, after moving back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dianne and Roger registered the Society of Women Who Love Shoes as a nonprofit. Last year, the group raised $30,000, which went to nine area women's shelters and individual families in addition to covering the organization's expenses. It also collected more than 2,500 shoes and pieces of clothing to go to women in need. The organization is volunteer-only and none of the organizers take a salary for their work, Dianne said.
The group holds monthly shoe contests at different restaurants in the DFW area. In addition to information on domestic violence and fundraising silent auctions, the group gives small awards to guests in categories such as Sexiest Shoe, Highest Heel and Most Unique Shoe. Men can get in on the action, as well, in the Best Tie and Most Unique Men's Tie categories.
"When people are having fun, at the same time, you can get across a very difficult message," Roger said. "People don't want to see pictures of women with bruises. They really want to understand and contribute to seeing that improve, but fun draws a little more [people]. ... At the same time, we are always focused on driving awareness of domestic violence and abuse and encouraging people to get involved."
The group has two fundraising events this month in Plano. On April 20 at Last Call by Neiman Marcus, 1601 Preston Road, the group will be selling coupons for $10 that will entitle to the holder to receive $20 off any same-day store purchase exceeding $50. Each ticket also qualifies the purchaser a chance to win a drawing for one of two pairs of shoes being offered by the store.
"It was just [Dianne's] story about being a victim herself" that inspired the store to host the event, said Robert Esparza, store manager of Last Call by Neiman Marcus in Plano. "We talked about how she has the biggest heart in the world to help others. It just kind of hit home, and I think we thought we could get together and work something out here."
The group will hold a formal event and contest April 25 at Blue Martini Lounge, 7301 Lone Star Drive in Plano. As with all of the group's events, new and gently-used shoes, clothes, handbags and toiletries will be collected for shelters and individual women. Proceeds from both events will benefit Hope's Door, a Plano-based women's shelter and counseling center serving Dallas and Collin counties.
The group has chapters in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth and Austin, and a Houston chapter is in the planning stages. The group is also seeking volunteers to head up a Plano/Frisco chapter.
"We want to be a household name, because no one wants to talk about abuse," she said. "It's an ugly, dark subject. So we're trying to take it in a fun attitude for awareness."
For information on the Society of Women Who Love Shoes and a full schedule of events, visit societyofwomenwholoveshoes.org.
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