We had the good fortune of connecting with Cora Lee Poole and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cora Lee, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Did you know that the statistics on domestic violence have not changed in the last 40 years? At Undestructable, we know that without sustainable and continued resources for survivors, those numbers may never change. That is what we exist for. We are a one-of-a-kind nonprofit with a totally unique proposition to be THAT resource for survivors after they are out of crisis. Because, leaving an abuser is just the first step in a long and difficult journey.
At a high level, Undestructable serves women who have experienced and survived domestic/intimate partner violence. There are between 100 and 220 domestic and/or intimate partner violence crimes reported in Denver every month (https://crime.denverpost.com/crime/dv/), and countless more that go unreported. Domestic and intimate partner violence is a non-discriminating epidemic in the USA that results in trauma (ptsd) and diminishes self-worth within survivors.
Moreover, 99% of survivors experience economic abuse compounded with other forms of violence and 50% of survivors face homelessness. Outside of emergency relief (shelter), counseling, extended stay, and advocacy programs, there are little to no resources for women to simultaneously rebuild their self-worth and build economic security in one place.
Another fact that we recognize is that DV/IPV does not affect women of different racial/ethnic at the same levels.
46% of Indigenous women experience DV/IPV in their lifetime
43.7% of Black women experience DV/IPV in their lifetime
37.1% of Latinx women experience DV/IPV in their lifetime
34.6% of White women experience DV/IPV in their lifetime
9.6% of Asian/Pacific Islander women experience DV/IPV in their lifetime
Within these numbers, are cultural dynamics at play that make it impossible to know the true rates in which women are experiencing DV/IPV. For example, there is a higher stigma in being a victim of DV/IPV than there is around being a harm-doer in AAPI cultures that can be linked back to internalized patriarchal values, which can lead to underreporting.
Another contributing factor of DV/IPV rates amongst BIWOC groups is the pay gap.
Asian women earn $0.90 for every dollar a white man earns
Black women earn $0.62 for every dollar a white man earns
Indigenous women earn $0.57 for every dollar a white man earns
Latinx women earn $0.54 for every dollar a white man earns
There is no greater barrier to economic sustainability for women survivors than the pay gap in our country. Undestructable will work with each participant as they are deciding on their next role after program completion to research salaries in the field and skills to effectively negotiate their starting salary.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I often speak of Undestructable as an idea that came about when I was a 25 year old student working on my BFA in apparel design, when in fact, it was a seed that was planted in my early childhood, well before I ever came close to realizing it. My story is Undestructable.
Domestic and intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is an epidemic that does not discriminate. People around the world are affected by it regardless of age, socio- economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. DV/IPV results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. What many people don’t understand is that leaving an abusive person is just the FIRST STEP in the journey toward healing. Survivors deserve resources beyond crisis, resources to support them in the days, weeks, months, and even years following their courageous act of leaving.
Undestructable is a nonprofit & social enterprise organization working with survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence on their journey to economic independence from their harm-doers. We do this through an employment program that not only provides them with an income and the life & job skills they need, but also promotes healing and the rediscovery of their innate self-worth creating sustainable products made from post consumer waste.
Our motto is:
Undestructable is designed and built to combine direct service with employment for women who have experienced and survived domestic and/or intimate partner violence. Our program is designed to focus on the 5 areas of comprehensive wellness (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual) with added 6th component of economic wellness.
Undestructable is a survivor-centric program, something that does not yet exist, with our main pillar focusing on economic security and sustainability. Economic independence is a critical factor in violence prevention and is just the beginning of the journey toward economic equity. We will not require participant applicants to have job history, be legal citizens, or have specific skill sets. All survivors are welcome, and we will meet them wherever they are on their journey.
Women will be employed in our program for 7 months where they will have two separate roles:
On the MAKER side of our business, Undestructable is responsible in teaching survivors’ new skills and the safety measures that come with those processes. We do not expect any new team member to know how to sew, cut wood, or any other process, and we welcome new skills and ideas. This part of Undestructable is just as much for the business as it is for the survivor. We will teach survivors how to research trends and identify consumer needs in order to reclaim, reimagine, and rebuild post-consumer waste into sustainable product that is not only a resource for them as they work through their trauma but are also desirable to our target market(s). The Maker Space is where the big magic happens and where stories of survival and resilience come to life!
On the RETAIL side of our business, survivors will be trained on POS systems, Visual Merchandising, Customer Relations, Sharing our Brand Values, Marketing, Inventory and other skills required for running and growing a business. We do not expect survivors will come knowing how to do any of the above. That is what we are here for.
Our direct service will also include trauma informed programming such as financial & computer literacy, mind/body workshops, job coaching, salary negotiation and empowerment workshops.
After program completion, they will move on to career-building positions with sustainable wages where they can continue their personal journey safely and sustainably utilizing the practices and skills developed while with us. We will be able to do this through partnerships both locally and nationally and with the support of volunteers.
Our goal is to provide survivors with a safe space to reclaim, reimagine and rebuild their lives after they have courageously left their harm-doers and to create a future for themselves that is both safe, stable, and sustainable.
Every participant, after program completion, will always have the opportunity to continue making and selling through our platform, teach classes, volunteer as coaches, and/or join our Board of Directors. Undestructable is more than just an employment program, it is a community of women with shared experiences working together, and for one another, to cultivate and foster positive change that is sustainable in our lives and for our planet.
There is a systemic belief in our country that all things are disposable. It spans from hard-goods to human beings. And this needs to change. All of my lived experiences brought me here. I, too, am a survivor.
Of course, starting something from scratch amidst a pandemic has been really hard, but stepping into the vulnerability of my own story has been the greatest challenge in this journey. To stand in front of people, in front of a society that struggles with speaking about abuse, and to tell my story has been an exercise in finding the power within my own story. It has been an exercise in shutting out the voices that seek to hold me back, both external and internal voices.
Healing is a lifelong journey for me, and for every person who has endured abuse inflicted upon them. We cannot continue asking, “why didn’t you leave?”. What we should be asking is, “how the hell could THEY do that to you?”
My mission is to actively work to dismantle systems, language, and stereotypes that have been built and perpetuated to cause more harm to people who have already been to hell.
We are UNDESTRUCTABLE.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wow! This is hard for me! I literally moved to Denver right before the pandemic hit, which as you can imagine, made getting to know the city a little difficult.
I will stick with the spaces that have been my personal sanctuaries.
Hiking: I love to head out to Golden for quick day hikes. Lookout Mountain, Chimney Gulch
Coffee: Whittier Cafe!!! Great people, great coffee. Black female owned and supports local artists every month by featuring someone new. Go support this awesome spot!
Art: This entire city. Of course, the Crush Walls in RiNo, but I am inspired by the public art here! The murals really drop my jaw to the floor!
Food. I am still looking for the best spots! I came from a total foodie city, and I am still waiting to be swept off my feet.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It is hard to pick just one! I would like to dedicate my shoutout to Joy Hoover, the founder and former CEO of the Cupcake Girls based in Las Vegas, NV. I admire her for everything that she has done and has yet to do. Her belief in me and Undestructable has been fuel to keep me going. She knows how hard it is to start something from scratch and the level of resilience needed to keep going! She is a true leader and fierce advocate!
All photos taken by myself