In a modest storefront in Shawnee, Okla., behind an ordinary door, you'll find a woman doing some extraordinary work: Ann Lowrance.
"I tell people that we save lives, and we do," she says.
Lowrance runs a small non-profit organization called Project Safe. One look at the (posters on the) walls in the office tells you what it's all about: helping victims of domestic violence.
"Physically," says Lowrance, "these women are in real danger when they come to us, and they need a safe place for themselves and their children."
That safe place is a shelter tucked away in a quiet Shawnee neighborhood. And while the broken families in the shelter cannot appear on camera, to protect their own safety, their presence is everywhere: a cupboard stocked for easy-to-make meals, a baseball cap resting on a dresser, colorful cubbies with toys for the children.
"We have a lot of young children, a lot of pre-school children who are here with their moms. We have some tiny ones, too," Lowrance notes.
She says the shelter isn't only about a safe place to stay; it's also about healing: "Some of what we do is help moms and kids play together. That sounds small, but it's huge for these people."
Lowrance tries to provide as much comfort as she can, but that's not always easy when you're squeezing 12 people into a two-bedroom house.
"One of the challenges of the shelter is that we have one bathroom," she points out.
What does Lowrance get out of it running Project Safe? "Seeing people's lives change. There are shelters all over the United States, and all of us run on a shoestring, but we do it because it means so much to so many people."
Everything in the shelter is donated, from the furniture, to the appliances, right down to the pillows and sheets.
"Linens and towels are things that we seem to never be able to keep a big surplus of in stock," Lowrance observes, "because sometimes, frankly, when people leave and are setting up their own households, they sometimes … pack some of our things."
Mary Minion, who volunteers at Project Safe, e-mailed The Early Show's Week of Wishes staff to ask for help for the shelter:
"Ann Lowrance a very special lady who goes out of her way to make sure women and children coming out of domestic violence situations have a safe place to stay," she wrote. "My wish is for someone to give them a shower to help replenish much-needed items, especially kitchen items such as towels, cooking utensils, and pots and pans that feed up to 12 people. They also need pillows, bath towels, twin sheet sets, comforters. Anyway, you get the idea. It would be great if you could do this on your show. Ann always appreciates everything that is donated for Project Safe. …I am writing to you in the hope you will make this an early Christmas present for them."
Well, Santa came for the shelter Tuesday in the form of gifts aplenty from Bed Bath & Beyond, and Serta mattresses.
From Bed Bath & Beyond: Nine twin Beds-in-a-Bag, one full Beds-in-a-Bag, 24 standard pillows, 12 fleece bBlankets (twin size), 24 white bath towels, 24 white hand towels, a 10-piece stainless steel cookware set, a 10-piece non-stick cookware set, an 18-piece utensil set, two Okra oven mitts, four bar mop dishtowels (six towels per set), and 12 slippers.
From Serta: 10 mattresses.
Lowrance and Minion were in New York for the presentation. Bari Fagin represented Bed Bath & Beyond.
When asked by The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler what impresses her most about Lowrance, Minion said, "Just the excitement she gets when she has the opportunity to sit there and tell you the things that they can do to help support these women. And she has this 'never give up' attitude. It doesn't matter how bad things get, she never gives up on the shelter or the women in the shelter."
The phone number for Project Safe is 1 800 821 9953.