The Cupcake Girls staff linking arms

Another Friday night stuck at home in quarantine: You’ve seen every episode of Queer Eye. You’ve re-watched Grey’s Anatomy and every season of The Office. But have you attended a live virtual variety show with Portland comedians, musicians, and dancers to support a good cause?

Tonight at 5 p.m. on Zoom, creative agency STCK Design and Portland variety show Brain Bang are hosting a “Virtual Show for Good” to raise money for the Cupcake Girls, the nonprofit that won our “Keeping Us Healthy” Light a Fire Award back in 2018. The Las Vegas-based non-profit that expanded to Portland in 2011 helps sex workers and those affected by domestic sex trafficking by providing resources and holistic services such as counseling, medical care, financial aid, and housing at pro bono or discounted rates.

Tonight’s goal? Raise $10,000 for the Cupcake Girls and have one hell of a time while doing so. The fundraiser-meets-variety show will feature Portland creatives sharing their music, dancing, poetry, spoken word performances, and comedic sketches by emcee Rowdy Keelor and other special guests.

In the first two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cupcake Girls saw a 300 percent increase in client requests in Portland alone. According to CEO Joy Hoover, that number is predominantly made up of people who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and people of color—and it’s continued to increase since March. The virus that’s disproportionately impacted people of color coupled with the shutdown of non-essential businesses has posed significant barriers of access to resources like medical care and food security. Some are at higher risk of returning to an abuser or sex trafficker. “A lot of them are still trying to work,” says Hoover, describing how many of their clients are at risk of getting infected as they’re still in touch with people involved in the sex industry. “They’re trying to survive.”

The services that the Cupcake Girls offers hasn’t changed—thanks to the 127 business partners in Portland that provide free or discounted services—but the number of clients has drastically increased. “We are slammed,” says Portland City Director Amy-Marie Merrell, who goes to Portland business directly to form partnerships, “like busier than we have ever experienced.” Hoover added that there’s currently a waitlist of clients waiting to get help. While the Cupcake Girls team can help clients meet quick needs like making a therapy appointment, they’re short-staffed on trained client advocates who can provide trauma support and case management. The money raised at this Friday’s event will go toward training more trauma advocates to so that clients needing assistance can get off the waitlist, Hoover says.

In addition to training trauma advocates, the money would also go toward emergency grant assistance. Over the past six months, The Cupcake Girls has provided over $86,000 of cash support to clients for things like rent coverage, utilities, food, medical supplies, and even free COVID tests, according to Hoover. 

“We need to show up for people who are affected even greater," Hoover says, "looking at the intersections and marginalized communities, making sure that everyone has access to the resources they need."

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