During the cold winter days, while many people retreat indoors to be with family and friends Brunie Sanchez hits the streets to give the homeless in the Orlando area toiletries and food. She gives out her goods to those in need contained in brown paper bags with words of encouragement written across them, empowering them to never give up.
She knows what it feels like to hit rock bottom. Brunie was in a domestic violence relationship with the father of her child for years, and recalls a day where her then-beau kicked her out of their apartment in bra and panties during winter time while she was pregnant.
When she attempted to report a domestic violence incident, a police officer told her that she’d have to have three incidents before she could get a restraining order.
“Its very discouraging. Fortunately for me I didn’t end up homeless, but I could have been,” said Brunie.
“Its like what do you tell your child? Alright now, we’re not going home but we’re going to this other random place.”
That’s when she began her blog and non-profit, Women Empower Today to encourage women in domestic violence relationships to get out of their situation and help feed the homeless in 2013.
“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be an advocate for women from a very young age, it’s just something that’s been in me. “
Brunie began her journey with Women Empower Today through blogging and publicly speaking about her experience to women in domestic violence shelters. While she was empowering women in domestic violence and the homeless, she still had not shared her story with her family.
“It was difficult for me to do (share my domestic violence story). I would always empower women, but I would never share my story,” said Brunie. “It really came out when the EGL blog article came out. Even my family – they knew I would speak to women, but they didn’t know the logistics behind it. Speaking to women was different because its like they don’t know me and they’ve been in my situation.”
She knew that sharing her story and how she got out was what helped her journey.
Brunie formed a team to help distribute food and goods to the homeless and shelters through community outreach in any avenue she can.
“If we really got to know each other and our strengths, and our creativities outside of the 9-5pm…we could really come together and do a lot of things. And that’s what I did. I just started talking to random people about it…if you share some vision with people, you can make a lot of things happen.”
Today Women Empower Today has a six-member team in Orlando and Tampa area, and while she has a supportive team, it hasn’t always been easy.
Initially, Brunie’s family was concerned for her wellbeing as she experienced what they deemed as negative energy by visiting unsafe environments and shelters. It was also challenging for family, and her included to step away from family events to feed the homeless.
Brunie also dealt with non-supporters who told her no one was paying attention to her brand anyway. Her website, which she built herself crashed twice.
“I told myself, you know what, it’s fine. Whatever you’re going to rebuild, it’s going to be that much bigger, that much greater, so just let it be.”
After rebuilding she began viewing her stats to see how far she was reaching, and found that she was being viewed in over 70 countries.
And she plans to continue reaching the masses through community outreach, her blog, and eventually owning her own women’s domestic violence shelter.
“My goal is to reach as many women as I can…I can die poor with nothing, but as long as I have a shelter ill be happy.”