Walk Strong

Let’s support our sisters.

By Amanda Flinn

Photos by Pamela Schniepp

Finding your passion isn’t an easy task; it can be elusive and overwhelming. However, you can build it, and it starts with taking the things you love and using them for a purpose greater than your own. For Deb Maevers of Cape Girardeau, VintageNOW has become her passion. A passion that combines her love of fashion and interior design with a love of community and cause. A passion that has donated more than $600,000 in proceeds to the local Safe House for Women. A passion 10 years strong, one that started with a big dream and a sizable donation of estate clothing. 

“We didn’t have clothing space in the store,” says Maevers, speaking of her local business, Pastimes Antiques in downtown Cape. “My daughter jokingly suggested we have a fashion show [using the donated items], and the next day I met with Linda Garner, director of the Safehouse [at the time], and together we planned our first event.” 

In 2009, the VintageNOW fashion show was held at Buckner Brewing Company, a venue that maxed out at 300 people, who together raised $3,500 for the Safe House. But with each passing year, the buzz around this event began to grow. Community sponsors stepped forward, businesses became involved, and both men and women began attending the event. In 2018, VintageNOW was held at the Show Me Center, with 2,000 guests raising more than $100,000 for the Safe House. What some may think is “just a fashion show” has become a night of empowerment, education, awareness and change. It’s fashion for a cause; a cause that affects 1 in 3 women nationwide. 

And though domestic violence is a topic no one wants to talk about, it is occurring right here in our own backyard, with more than 500 reports per year being made to the police department in Cape Girardeau County. The local shelter serves 135 women and children per year, with more than 400 nonresidential clients accessing services such as counseling, support groups, court advocacy and transportation. Because of funding directly related to VintageNOW, a new shelter opened in June 2019. 

The new facility is equipped with 40 beds (compared to 17 at the old location) and is 100% handicap accessible. There is a computer lab, a library and additional space to accommodate women with teenage sons. According to Jessica Hill, current director of the Safe House for Women, VintageNOW “has [figuratively and literally] opened so many doors for us.” Not only is the community more aware of local resources, but they feel connected to the cause. A cause determined to give women a voice. 

Women like Jennifer, a domestic abuse survivor and current resident of the Safe House shelter who asked to be identified by only her first name. Originally from South Louisiana, Jennifer has spent many of her adult years bouncing around from multiple relationships that have ended in abuse. However, in just three short weeks at the Safe House, she is finding the comfort of family, the comfort of home. 

“I have a bright future. I want to live a happy life, and this is a good place to start,” she says. Working with a team from the Safe House, Jennifer will set realistic goals, allowing her to seek employment and secure housing in the future. A future that is brighter because of the Safe House, the community and of course, VintageNOW. 

Each year, Maevers encourages the fashion show models to “walk strong,” sometimes for themselves, for a woman at the Safe House or for a member of the audience who hasn’t yet spoken up. It’s a pep talk of sorts, but ultimately, it’s about connecting with the cause. A cause Maevers herself has become deeply embedded in by serving on the Safe House board and making VintageNOW her full-time, year-round passion. 

“It’s an event that we’re proud of,” Maevers says. “It’s constantly changing and evolving, which keeps it interesting.” 

But it’s more than that, too. It’s passion and persistence. It’s fun and fashion. It’s a whole lot of people coming together to serve the community. It’s a dream, in action. 


Are you in an abusive relationship?

Physical or emotional abuse is never OK; you are a woman of worth and can live free. If you are in an abusive relationship, know you are not alone. You are worth seeking help, and we love you. 

Here is the contact information for people at the Safe House for Women in Cape Girardeau who can help you:

Crisis text line: (573) 340-1060

Outreach phone: (573) 335-7745

24-hour crisis hotline: 1 (800) 341-1830

The people who can be reached at these numbers are there to listen, believe you and help you seek the resources you need to escape from an abusive relationship and create a sustainable future for you and your children. Take courage, sister. Let someone help you today. 


Ways You Can Help

  1. Believe someone when she (or he) says they are being abused. Help them seek resources to keep them safe and create a sustainable future for their self and their children. Resources like the Safe House for Women in Cape Girardeau or the National Domestic Violence Hotline are available; the National Hotline can be accessed at thehotline.org or 1 (800) 799-7233. Para español, espanol.thehotline.org.
  2. Give your time to the Safe House for Women. The Safe House offers opportunities to volunteer at their thrift store; provide maintenance and lawn care from groups affiliated with churches, schools and service organizations; adopt a family at Christmas; or donate your old cell phone to be recycled and raise funds for the Safe House. In addition, if you need community service hours because of a DWI or similar charge, the Safe House works with the local Board of Probation & Parole and Private Correctional Services to provide housekeeping for the outreach office. If you are interested in any of these opportunities, contact the Safe House at (573) 335-7745.
  3. Donate to or shop at the Safe House for Women thrift store. Located at 230 N. Spring Street in Cape Girardeau, the thrift store is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Reach them at thriftshop@semosafehouse.org or at (573) 335-7746. Or, if you want to contribute a monetary donation of any size to the Safe House, visit semosafehouse.org/how-you-can-help/financial-support/.

Why do you participate in VintageNOW?

I wanted to walk for VintageNOW because it brings a voice to women in our community facing domestic violence. Deb Maevers and her entire “Dream Team” of wonderful, talented people demonstrate courage and strength of character it’s a true blessing to be a part of something so special. — Samantha Rhodes, Portraying Coco Chanel


What is your favorite part about the outfit you’re wearing in the show? 

My stylist, Ashely Irey, made a fast choice to fix a busted seam by sewing buttons all down the back of the dress; she was adding visual interest and unknowingly adding a whole lot of love. My mom, a domestic abuse survivor who was unable to attend, calls me Mary Mac, and because of the last-minute addition, I was now dressed in black with buttons all down my back. Just like the song, it made me feel like Mom was walking strong with me on runway. Megon Rousseau, Portraying Madame Marie Curie


How do you define ‘hero?’

A female hero to me is someone who is selfless, yet strong, and who is not afraid to take on a challenge and conquer it like a fierce, badass woman, yet in the most delicate way! Emily Lanpher, Portraying Women in Space


Who is your hero?

I have a grandmother whom I never saw turn away a soul; she offered a meal to anyone who was hungry and somehow managed to elevate every soul she touched, physically and emotionally. She was patient, selfless and humble and could make you feel like she was your personal advocate and cheerleader; truly an inspiration for me and others.  — Breyana Ray, Portraying Warrior


What do you love about modeling in VintageNOW?

Every year, I bawl my eyes out when I am backstage. You cannot imagine the impact this event has on so many women. It is phenomenal to see how much it has impacted the Safe House for Women. A New Home has been built, and it provides the space for so many more women and children to get the help they need. This is the stuff world changing is all about, and I am thrilled to get to be a small part of it. Chantelle Becking, Portraying Every Woman


What is the most fun part about being in VintageNOW?

The most fun part about VintageNOW is the annual rendezvous with passionate, thoughtful and hilarious people! For me, it means belonging to a community of women who support others and want to be part of positive change. Watching the event grow and develop while understanding the impact of what it really does is incredibly powerful. It’s so much more than makeup and clothes. … It’s transformational. — Jeanne Muckerman, Portraying Stevie Nicks

Who are you portraying in the show, and what do you admire about this woman?

For one of my looks in the show, I portrayed J.K. (Joanne) Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. She is one of the bestselling fiction authors of all time and is well-known for her philanthropic nature she financially supports many noble charities, including her own charity, Lumos, that promotes family care over institutionalized orphanages for young, disadvantaged children.

I look up to Jo first because she was the reason I became enthralled with reading as a child. Jo’s writing was so descriptive and yielded to my imagination in ways other books never had. Now, many years later, I’ve just recently begun reading the first Harry Potter book to my daughter, bringing me back to my own childhood, as well as giving me the opportunity to share the “magic” of reading with her. 

Jo’s support of female empowerment and many children’s charities are just a few other reasons why I look up to her. Her journey from being on welfare and writing her first books in cafés because she was a single parent is an incredible testimony to many young and/or single mothers out there. She did not allow her situations to overpower her will to do what she loved. — Michelle Volkerding, Portraying J.K. Rowling


What is something you’ve done that is legendary? 

Walk strong, the past nine years, for those women of the Safe House for Women. I allow the mission my “why” of this empowering and life-changing VintageNOW Fashion Show and those legendary women to overcome my fear of being in front of a lot of people. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about me; it’s about you. Kaleisha Walker, Portraying Maya Angelou