Monday, July 25, 2011

I wanted to get one final post in before July slips away from us and we're into the slower and usually hotter days of August.

Last Friday was an amazingly busy day at the container and volunteer after volunteer kept showing up with yet more amazing donations.  Here's how it all unfolded!

Toni Colvin met me down at the Container around 10:20 or so.  We got the doors open, card table set up and Toni had her first in-depth tour of all our donations, neatly categorized and organized by Karen.  She was impressed and let it slip that she loves creating order out of disorder and before she could say another word, I introduced her to the chaos of our bookshelves.  Toni got right into it and for the next hour and half, this is where she could be found.

The prior week, new volunteer Claire Chapman had dropped off boxes and boxes of children's books that she and her three children had neatly organized and labeled into age-appropriate boxes so as our bookshelf empties, we will add these books.  It was a big job that Claire took on and her willingness to jump right in is so appreciated. 

I had told Toni that it would probably be a slow morning and we'd have plenty of time to chat and tidy but boy, was I ever wrong (yet again!).  Here's how the morning unfolded.

Annie Gabbert and her darling daughter stopped by with a salad bowl and four matching smaller bowls which I know will be much appreciated by one of our families.  Annie and her kids rarely miss an Open Container day and it's obvious that they're always thinking about the families we serve and how we can best help them.

Then Lizzie Kipner stopped by with boxes and boxes of diaper wipes which we'll get to our moms with babies at Venice Community Housing.  You can never have too many wipes so thanks for thinking of TWC, Lizzie!

Teresa Rosati-Royer then pulled up with non-perishable food items, cleaning products, sheets and a blanket and was headed down to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get another sheet to 'match' the existing fitted sheet she gave us.  As she handed over the box of food Teresa explained that it was minus a jar of peanut butter as that morning one of their guests at their beautiful Tuscali Mountain Inn had asked Teresa if they had any.  While apologizing for not having any, she suddenly remembered the jar in her 'TWC' bag in the car and ran out to get it!

Toni hadn't come empty-handed to the Container and arrived with several big boxes of toothpaste, a donation from her dentist.  As Toni said, it's much easier to have for something when it's not for yourself.  I'm learning...

Noelle Berman had the day off work and she and her darling pup Lucy stopped by with Noelle's signature donation...a tea kettle.  We love putting a new tea kettle in the apartments when we do set-ups and Noelle has given us SO many over the past years so thank you, Noelle.  How did you know we were out of this standard!?  But that wasn't all Noelle had in her car.  After a yoga class a few days prior, Noelle had noticed a box sitting outside Eco Mail with baby shampoos and deodorants inside with a compelling sign..."FREE!"  So she grabbed the box, and shamed her classmates into putting back what they had taken.  That's our girl!

And finally, right about when we were ready to shut the door to the Container, Sue Forbes' son drove up with a huge donation.  Seems like Sue had been talking to her dentist, too, and had scored boxes and boxes of toothbrushes and floss for her families.  Between Toni's and Sue's chats with their dentist, the oral hygiene of the needy folks we help will be made much, much easier.  Thank you!

Many thanks to Lisa O'Laughlin whose brainchild it was to hold the Open Container every other Friday.  She has been so much help during the rainy and cool winter days to the heat of summer and she just deserves a break!  Karen and I have decided that due to the heat and the vacation schedules of so many TWC volunteers that we'll suspend the 'Open Fridays' until kids are back to school.  So, this Friday will be the last one when Lisa and other volunteers will be there between 10:30 and Noon.  If you have anything you've been meaning to drop off, now's the time to do it.

And when we start back in September, we're really going to try to make this an every Friday occurrence, dependent on the number of TWC volunteers who are able to help.  We'll see how it goes.

And one final thing:  please send your favorite family recipes (the simple ones) our way as Annie and others have mentioned the TWC cookbook idea as being a great way to bring in some funds.  Perhaps we could start with just compiling simple recipes for the families we serve and then expand that into a cookbook for the Canyon and beyond.  Any recipes that you send should have accurate ingredients and good prep/serving directions.  Thanks!

Friday, July 1, 2011


As we talked about at our meeting on Wednesday, Karen and Mary have been teaching an introductory sewing class for the past few  months at 650 Westminster, the transitional living center in Venice.  We have shared some photos from this class and also some of the highs and lows of working with families in transition.  One thing we are continually reminded of when we're helping women and children in flux is that chaos and untidiness frequently go hand in hand and neither makes teaching and scheduling easy.

Karen and Mary's patience has been sorely tried with inconsistent attendance, inadequate infant/child care (which makes teaching almost impossible) and the emotional upheaval in these young women's lives which completely affects their approach to learning.  Last night, the final session, was no different.  Only one of the mothers showed up, there was no child care in place (and she has two children under two) and Mary spent her entire time trying to sooth an unhappy infant.  In other words, a real lesson in frustration.

But, as you will see from the happy expression on Sheilia's face, making this custom bag gave her enormous pleasure and the fact that it is an original and  'nobody else in the world has one like it' is, quite simply, what it's all about.  The bag looks pretty impressive, too!

We were really touched that some many of you expressed a willingness to teach the moms a skill that they could use but before we start any classes, whether it's cooking or nutrition or 'back to school' basics. we really need to establish with the on site social worker a schedule, a sign-up sheet, an RSVP system, childcare and an understanding with the mothers who sign up for these classes that they are obligated to show up and be ready.  If any of you have any ideas or would like to work on some sort of draft form that we could use for the classes, that would be great, because until we have more of a commitment from the facility and from the women, it really isn't worth our time, and this is something I think we all would like to see working out well.

So, please share any thoughts that you may have on how we can help these young woman but also ideas on how we can make it mutually worth our time.

Remember, I've got a basement full of hoodies!  I will  be taking a big bag over to Toni's house (after the Fourth) and Isabelle has offered to come here and help sort.  Any other offers would be welcome.

Today at the Container new volunteer Claire Chapman wandered over from the Farmer's Mkt to talk to us further about her enthusiasm for getting her children involved in community work.  We had brought boxes of books up on Wednesday from the Brewery storage which were at my house.  When it was suggested that maybe she and her children could divide them into age-appropriate piles and box them for us, she was keen to get started so took all six boxes home.  (YAY!!!)  Here's a pic of the books we hauled to Topanga from downtown and our downtown storage container.

 Another thing we talked about was sometimes donations need a quick wash or tumble 'round the drier to look really good.  This would be such a help to us.  I love this photo that Karen took of drying shoes which she'd just washed.  They look like new, don't they!?