Cora Lee Poole has spent most of her life reclaiming, reimagining and rebuilding. At a young age, she was a sexual abuse victim. And in her early 20s, Cora Lee was in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. Today, at the age of 40, she calls herself a survivor and a thriver, helping other women find their voices and power.
For the last 15 years, Cora Lee has been dreaming of a way to help other survivors while also tapping into her creative and design side. During the pandemic, she launched Denver-based Undestructable, a nonprofit organization focused on giving female survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence the tools they need to reclaim their voice and gain economic independence from their harm doer.
“We will do this through an employment program that not only provides an income along with life and job skills training but also promotes the healing and rediscovery of each survivor’s innate self-worth by creating sustainable products made from post-consumer waste,” Cora Lee says.
Undestructable taps into Cora Lee’s background as both a survivor and as someone passionate about the environment and design. She originally went to college as a pre-law major focused on environmental law, and years later she wound up attending the Art Institute of Portland for apparel design. While in Portland and at the beginning of her career, she saw an abundance of materials going to waste on a global scale. This experience, paired with the desire to start a business teaching survivors of domestic violence how to thrift and alter clothing, led to the eventual idea for Undestructable.
Today, the nonprofit is just getting its start with a pilot program that began in March. Spaces for the nonprofit’s pilot program with the Rose Andom Center filled up within 24 hours, and it currently has a waitlist of other women wanting to join the program.
The program accepts women who have been through abuse and will teach them to sew, build, and sell goods, ultimately gaining financial independence from their harm doers. Undestructable will employ women in the program to make various products—including wallets from reclaimed men’s clothes—and pay them $20 per hour. “Rather than filling up the landfill, survivors are going to be learning skills to create via art therapy,” Cora Lee says. “We will be taking symbols of our harm doers and turning them into things that are traditionally ours.”
Women in the program will also use raw materials like wood, electrical wires and copper piping donated from Perks Deconstruction to build and sell sustainable home goods.
Cora Lee says the length of the program will last seven months on average, but will vary by the individual. “We will meet people where they’re at,” she says. “We’re not here to fix. We're not here to help. We are here to be a resource for survivors, a resource that allows them to identify their own superpowers, their own skill sets and develop their own plan forward.”
Undestructable’s motto is reclaimed, reimagined and rebuilt—a holistic saying that applies both to the women themselves and the sustainable products they will create.
The nonprofit has raised nearly $60,000 and plans to launch another fundraising campaign in October. Later this year Cora Lee hopes to open a space for members of the program to produce products that will later be sold at a retail shop.
“Undestructible is built on the systemic belief in our nation that everything is disposable. And when I say everything, that's a belief that spans from hard goods to human beings, and it's something that has to change,” Cora Lee says. “It has to change within our nation. It has to change globally, to be honest, but we've got to start on our home turf first.”