How Felicia’s Donation Closet Helps Domestic Violence Survivors

By Laura Anne Bird | Photography by Hillary Schave

Felicia Raye Diny knows one thing for sure: “No one should have to sleep on the floor.”

The founder of Felicia’s Donation Closet, a nonprofit that furnishes domestic violence survivor’s homes, is passionate about supporting women who have fled difficult circumstances for safety.

“Heading to a shelter is a huge accomplishment, because many women go back numerous times to their abusers before leaving for good, and some don’t make it out at all,” she says. “But what happens when it’s time for them to leave the shelter and get their own place?”

This is where Felicia’s Donation Closet steps in.

In collaboration with various organizations in the Madison area, Felicia’s Donation Closet locates and delivers much-needed items to families who are moving out of shelters and into their own homes. “These women are starting over, and we set them up for success. We bring them all the necessities for their new life,” Diny says.

Diny herself experienced domestic abuse years before meeting her now husband, Ryan Olson, whom she calls her biggest supporter. “I have experienced the stress, trauma and anxiety associated with abuse, and that’s had a huge influence on my desire to help other women,” she says. Diny’s efforts began in 2019, when she looked into donating her own couch to a shelter. She learned that a mom had just moved out of the shelter and had very few furnishings. “I asked the shelter what this woman needed, and then I put a post out on my socials and got about 175 comments from friends and family who wanted to contribute.”

Diny rented a truck, collected and delivered the donated items, and was deeply moved by how happy the mom was. Hooked, she started making deliveries to other women, and Felicia’s Donation Closet was born. “We’ve come a long way since then. One move used to take us about eight hours, but now we can pull off a few moves in two,” she says. The organization secured its 501(c)3 status in 2021.

Moving forward, Diny hopes to purchase a bigger warehouse, a panel van and a second moving truck. She also envisions hiring paid staff and expanding outside of Dane County. “But to do these things, we need funds,” she says.

The nonprofit’s fourth annual casino night fundraiser will take place on May 18, which will include a dinner, live auction and raffle for a $6,000 diamond necklace, donated by Diny’s Jewelers, which is owned by her cousins. The event will take place at the Palestrina Event Center in Verona.

With dedicated support from a team of volunteers, board members and donors, Diny estimates that she works eighty hours each week to carry out the mission of Felicia’s Donation Closet. (While she and Olson also own a concrete business that sustains them financially, Diny’s full-time gig is her nonprofit.) It’s a daunting job, but she’s not backing down.

“Each donation I place in a home for an abused woman is a symbol of hope, resilience and compassion,” she says. “It’s about restoring dignity, rebuilding lives and creating a sanctuary.”

feliciasdonationcloset.com

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