Mother, Denie Collazo of Merrillville, gives a hug to Beautiful Again owner Ivonne Anderson after picking out clothing and accessories for Mothers Day at the Highland consignment shop. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 13, 2013 5:55PM
Ivonne Anderson pulled a colorful blouse from a hanger and held it up high.
“If you see anything you like, just grab it. It’s time you think just about yourself while you’re here. Happy Mother’s Day,” she told Denie Collazo, 34, of Merrillville.
On Friday evening, Anderson invited a dozen mothers to her Highland consignment shop, Beautiful, Again, to take part in her first-ever “Women of Honor” event.
For the past three years, Anderson and her longtime friend and co-worker, Carole Lahey, have donated hundreds of items to local church pantries. The donated items included clothing, accessories, shoes, handbags and home goods.
“I’ve often wondered the reaction of people when receiving those great items,” Anderson told me earlier. “Well, now I’m going to get that chance.”
Anderson asked two churches and a food pantry to handpick several women who could use a Mother’s Day makeover, complete with a new outfit, purse, shoes, gift cards and goodie bags. Each nominated woman routinely does so many things for their children and others that their needs — and wants — often get lost in life’s shuffle.
“These ladies have such great hearts and stories, I just can’t keep my eyes dry,” said Anderson, who’s a mother herself. “Women take their shopping seriously, so we wanted to give these ladies some special time to pick exactly what they want.”
With no rush, no pressure, no children. In other words, bliss. On this day, the sign behind the counter wasn’t needed either: “Your husband called — he said you can buy anything you want.”
One by one, each woman entered Beautiful, Again — most for the first time — and shopped for new outfits, accessories, sunglasses, and other items. All for free, with many of the items donated by the shop’s consignors.
“Go crazy,” Anderson told Kim Kotarski of Calumet City, Ill., a member of Living Hope Church in Merrillville.
Kotarski, a single mother with four adopted foster kids, did exactly that, choosing three shirts, two pairs of shoes, a pair of pants and a couple of bracelets.
“This is amazing, a real nice gesture,” she told me. “It’s easy for mothers to feel underappreciated, especially single mothers. I usually get a lot of promises from my kids but they’re not very proactive.”
“It’s also great to have other people recognize what you do, at home and in the community,” she added. This is humbling is what it is.”
Lahey, who helped coordinate the event, said Kotarski is actively involved with Royal Family Kids’ Camp, working with abused and neglected children in Northwest Indiana. (The organization is hosting a spaghetti dinner fundraiser on June 22 at Merrillville Fire Station 1.)
“Kim is a single mom who gives everything she has to her children,” Lahey said. “Remarkably, she still finds time to help baby-sit for friends as well.”
When Anderson learned Kotarski’s 14-year-old daughter could use a new outfit for her upcoming middle school graduation, she wouldn’t let her leave empty-handed.
“These mothers do so much for their families and community. I’m honored to honor them,” Anderson explained.
Anderson and Lahey gave tight hugs to each woman, walking them to the door with a heartfelt, “Happy Mother’s Day!”
Afterward, Lahey told me, “Honestly, this is a real blessing for us more than them. It just feels good to make them feel special, and beautiful, again.”
Anderson added, “This was my prayer for this event,” breaking into emotion.
Another mother, Tina Meyers of Highland, was given an outfit, a knockoff Louis Vuitton purse, white sunglasses and a pink princess bag.
“Because you’re a princess today,” Anderson told her.
Collazo, who volunteers her time with Healthy Kids, was referred to Anderson by Operation Care food pantry in Griffith.
“This is a wonderful getaway,” said Collazo, who’s married with three kids, ages 15, 13 and 5. “Just a couple hours away and alone is a nice break. Even the drive here was so peaceful.”
Her husband called to ask if she wanted to steal away for dinner alone.
“I didn’t really have anything nice to wear, but I do now,” she said, noting her two new outfits, shorts and jewelry.
While she tried on clothes in a fitting room, Anderson also surprised her with a bedroom set of new sheets, linen and comforter.
“I got teary-eyed a little bit because I’m really in need of it,” admitted Collazo, who is on medical leave.
Kotarski said the plans for her special day are pretty typical: church and dinner. But she’s hoping for an additional Mother’s Day gift, probably the same wish for the 85 million other mothers in this country.
“A peaceful nap,” she said.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.