During an Extravagant Love Conference, an 80-year old woman came up after the event and told her story of carrying the shame of having an abortion 50 years prior. We asked the participants to share a portion of their stories with a person next to them. For the first time, the shame and guilt of her secret was released and she found freedom for herself as well as the person next to her…..who happened to be her granddaughter
…...Extravagant Love Conference, Gallup, NM
“When I was 14, I found myself pregnant and full of shame. I told no one. When I delivered, I left the baby out in the cold to die. My mom thankfully found the baby and I raised her, but I have carried guilt and shame ever since that horrible day, until now……. I found freedom at the Extravagant Love Conference. No longer am I a slave to fear and guilt. I am forgiven, blessed and loved EXTRAVAGANTLY by God.”
……Extravagant Love Conference, Virginia Beach
“A few weeks after the Extravagant Love Makeover that was held at our restaurant, a nicely dressed woman came in and I hardly recognized her. I finally realized she was the one who used to come in wearing rags and begging for food. We knew her as the “homeless woman under the bridge.” She explained to me that she wanted to come back to the place where her life was changed a few months prior. It was during the Extravagant Love Makeover that she was changed and now was on her way to a job interview.”
......Tom from Bistro to Go
Gala Venue for 1st Extravagant Love Makeover
“I thought it was just going to be a little makeover and I was not sure how in depth it was going to go….It was unbelieveable! Getting off the bus with the red carpet was just like overwhelming! I now know that I am beautiful and God EXTRAVAGANTLY Loves Me!”
......Extravagant Love Makeover, Pittsburgh, PA
Homeless shelter recipient
in the news
Pittsburgh's Extravagant Love Makeover gives donors a fabulous way to help their neighbors.
BY JENNIFER BROZAK AT READER'S DIGEST
Try and remember how good it felt the last time you spent a day pampering yourself, shopping, and finally sitting down with loved ones for a sumptuous dinner. Now, try and imagine you were homeless.
On November 12th, more than 100 homeless Pennsylvania women will get a taste of the fabulous life when Denise Graves, worship pastor at Covenant Church in Pittsburgh will host the “Extravagant Love Makeover” for the fifth year in a row. The annual charity project provides abused and homeless women who live in Pittsburgh shelters with full makeovers, followed by a red-carpet arrival to a lavish dinner.
“When you see the women, after they’ve been all dolled up for the evening, the difference is amazing,” says Graves. “These women, who otherwise have absolutely nothing, absolutely light up.”
The idea for the Extravagant Love Makeover (ELM, for short) was inspired by a trip Graves’ church took to New York City. While there, Graves witnessed a similar event, which left a lasting impression. Following the trip, Graves’ friend Kelly Jones approached her about bringing the makeover to Pittsburgh.
Graves was already well versed in outreach, having worked with local organizations to provide 14,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area children and to provide Christmas to children who live in local orphanages. She told herself that if it was meant to be, she would find a way.
“I was already used to working on these projects without having any money,” she says. “But my motto has always been, ‘If it’s in God’s heart, then it’s God’s burden.”
Graves got to work, and organizations and individuals soon began volunteering their time, money and talents to make the makeover happen. The first year, the ELM welcomed 70 women; today, that number has nearly doubled. She now has more than 200 active volunteers from all over the city, and actually finds herself having to turn volunteers away.
“It’s an absolute miracle that we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve done,” says Graves.
Following their head-to-toe makeovers, guests choose new outfits and are then transported to dinner at the Pittsburgh Project on the city’s North Side, where they’re greeted by a throng of well-wishers, receive a long-stemmed red rose and walk the red carpet into the building. Inside, they’re treated to a lavish dinner, music and entertainment, and participate in a fashion show. Each woman also receives a goody bag full of personal care items and more.
ELM has now filed for non-profit status, and Graves hopes to take the program nationwide.
“When you see how much this event helps these women, it’s beautiful,” she says. “They realize that despite everything, they are strong, powerful and still standing. It’s a small reminder that they are still worthy, and that people still care.”
OCTOBER 19, 2016
BY BETTER THE BURGH
Prior to my time in Pittsburgh I spent a few years working with an organization that provided respite care for homeless men and women in Washington, D.C. Most would come in broken, and hurting by a life lived on the streets. Not infrequently, within a few days of receiving care, a new look would come across their faces.
Major problems don’t get solved in one day or even in a few weeks. But being cared for and the recognition that you are loved, can go a long way towards changing an attitude of hopelessness into a belief that more may just be possible. This is an approach that Denise Grave’s Extravagant Love Makeover Project has embraced by showering its participants with a day of attention, care, and, yes, love. Most of the big problems will still remain, but have no doubt: one day can indeed have a lasting impact for good.
What does Extravagant Love do?
On the surface, the Extravagant Love Project is a day of pampering each November for women who are in the midst of experiencing the most difficult sets of circumstances that life can throw at them. Women from shelters throughout the city are paired with volunteers who give them treatment that rivals the most luxurious spas in town. They spend the afternoon receiving manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, a new hairdo, and a new outfit. After this, they are whisked to a lavish ceremony hosted by the Pittsburgh Project, complete with dinner and a fashion show that allows the women to be the stars of the evening.
Where the Extravagant Love Makeover really makes its impact is in the genuine love with which these services are shared. It’s hard to really grasp the impact of what being made to feel special means to a person who’s life circumstances have put her in a place where she often ignored or rejected by the people around her.
The project’s founder, Denise Graves, works to make sure that all participants are the recipients of unconditional love throughout the day. Volunteers are prepped with training in regard to some of the how’s and why’s of homelessness, and are encouraged to allow natural friendship to grow as they remind the women that they are indeed loved.
Why do they do it?
Ms. Graves makes it clear that the Extravagant Love Makeover is the outflow of her faith in God and the love that she has received. Each of us has a story, and we truly have no idea what another person has gone through to lead her to the place that she is in life now. Even at our very lowest points, our stories are not over. As long as there is life there can be hope. Often it takes some real encouragement and a tangible expression of love to begin believing that.
Ms. Graves notes that so many of the messages we hear in the present day tend to break things down into categories of “us” and “them.” But with the Extravagant Love Makeover, volunteers are looking to embrace what she calls “the power of we”. We are all made in God’s image. We are all important, and we all deserve to be recipients of love.
How can you help?
With regards to immediate help, the needs are primarily financial. It takes a lot to organize this special day for the 100+ women who will have love lavished on them this November. The outfits, jewelry, and the full spa treatment are costly. If you are moved to help, donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated.
In the long term, there is a vision of growing the Extravagant Love Project here in Pittsburgh and in other cities. A plan for maintaining the relationships through ongoing friendships between the participants and volunteers is being developed. Conference weekends are being planned to help prepare volunteers and spread the vision to other locations.
To learn more, I’d recommend visiting the organization’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Extravagant-Love-Makeover-894707130599900/?fref=ts
You can reach out through their message button to find out about volunteering with, or donating to, this 501c3 organization.