MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A north Minneapolis woman uses her birthday to help and empower others.

Colette Benettie, her family and her close friends donate their time on Christmas Eve to put together a luncheon at Harriet Tubman’s Battered Women’s shelter in Minneapolis. They also shower the women with things they need to make their stay better.

Benettie says she knows what it’s like to be displaced. An immigrant from Georgetown, Gayana, she had to raise her family on her own, but managed to finish law school.

Now, Benettie leads a group dedicated to giving back and helping those in the community who need it the most.

“The women don’t get a break. They still have to be a mom no matter what they are going through,” Benettie said.

More than 70 women a day, plus their children, count on the shelter for refuge.During the holidays, these women are sometimes forgotten, so Benettie says it’s her mission to make sure they know they matter.

“For women who are battered, that is even worse. They feel unloved and they don’t understand why they are going through the situation that they went through and their children and don’t understand,” Benettie said.

So, Benettie gathered her children, her god children and kids from her neighborhood who call her mom, and they put together a spread.

“I thought about my experience staying at Harriet Tubman,” said Jameian Selmon.

Her goddaughter Jamian, an event planner, was responsible for finding gifts for the women. She knows all too well what they need. Thirteen years ago, she called the shelter home.

“When you are leaving a situation and you think about the necessitates: shirt, underwear, clothes for your children and one of the things that are key in a shelter is you share a community bathroom,” said Selmon.

So, what did the women get? Bathrobes, slippers and pajamas, things they need. They also received a fun gift, like makeup, facials and massages, things that will make them feel good.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” said Benettie.

Shelter director of residential service Junauld Presley says this gesture of goodwill goes a long way.

“A nice smile knowing that people care and are interested is very important,” Presley said.

When asked what she wants for her birthday, Benettie says she’s been blessed, but people can be a blessing to the shelter by giving to the women and children there.

Reg Chapman

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