Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Face of Homelessness

This Thanksgiving, most of us probably reflected on how very fortunate we are. This morning while skimming through The Huffington Post, I came across an article about Carey Fuller, a mother of two who regularly blogs about her experience  of living with her children in a van.

The article is well worth a read, as is her blog which is linked in the above piece.  After reading about Carey and much of her blog, I found myself reflecting more than usual on just how lucky I am.  I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with the love of family, a warm and comfortable home and happiness and joy.

So for the year a head, let's all make a pledge to continue helping moms like Carey Fuller with the same enthusiasm and commitment that we have in this past year, remembering that for every face of homelessness we see, there are countless more who need help.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Meeting 11/17/11

A lively meeting was held last Thursday evening at my home and while many regulars were unable to attend due to travel and seasonal illness, etc., we still had a good turn-out with 16 TWC members. Krista Stilley, the Director of Westwood Transitional Village, was our guest speaker and attendees included: Patty Colvig, Catherine Grasso, Teresa Rosati-Royer, Linda Mann, Janaki Welch, Ildy Lewis, Linda Handler, Paulette Rapp, Deborah Kashinsky, Geraldine Flaxman, April Hinkle and her guest Talia, Liz Dupuy, Mary Morley, Karen Sherwood and me.

As usual there were lots of yummy dishes and great chatter before our meeting started.  Krista spent a lot of time over dinner and drinks just chatting with TWC members and it was obvious she had lots of information to share with us all.

Janaki took notes.

After dinner our first speaker was Patti Colvig who has been actively involved with Jane Donaldson and Deborah Demontreux in brainstorming sewing kit ideas.  This includes a sewing/repair kit to be given to each household that we set up as well as a potential fundraising idea of selling kits, for  example, for kids going away to college.  They also instituted a button drive at Topanga Elementary which yielded a pretty big haul, especially from TWC member Linda Handler's kindergarten class!  Ideas were discussed about how to package these kits and if any of you can think of good, practical and affordable ideas, please drop Patti a line at  Gabriel thought it would be good to go with Patti when asking for donations. April Hinkle volunteered to help Patti with this project with regard to asking various organizations for donations so I look forward to an update from them at the next meeting.  Patti already has a donation of $400 so she's well on her way.  Linda Handler mentioned that as a teacher she gets a 15% discount at Michael's which is good to know.  Thank you Patti!

 Patti Colvig presenting a variety of great ideas on her sewing project

Possible inclusions in the sewing project

Several months ago, Karen and I invited Krista Stilley the director at Westwood Transitional Village, to attend one of our meetings and she accepted with great enthusiasm.  We also thought we should share with her our operation controls center and office, aka the 'Bin' which Karen did before leading her up the hill to my house.  During dinner, Krista had chatted with many members and when she spoke, she shared with all of us the basic structure at Westwood, intake procedures for the families and enrichment programs for the residents and their children. 

She also spoke with great fondness of the Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center (preschool) and the success of that program.  Krista then shared with us her career path from coming to Los Angeles to try her hand at acting to working with homeless kids and acting programs in Hollywood and then transitioning into working with the Salvation Army and finally her promotion to being the Director at Westwood Transitional Village.  She shared with us that because of Federal funding, there can be no discrimination in housing and that they accept traditional married couples, two moms, two dads, single moms or unmarried couples with children.

Ten of the units at Westwood Transitional Village, or fully one-quarter of the apartments, are reserved for Veterans and their families.  As Catherine Grasso said, this is very important to many of our donors and is something that we should be sure to share with our member base.  She also requested that we share with members when a veteran family is being moved in.  Krista then briefly spoke about the fact that national transitional housing programs are in a state of flux and that the country is watching the programs that remain in place in Los Angeles.

And finally, Krista presented a beautiful plaque  to Topanga Women's Circle thanking us for all we do at 'The Village.'  We will bring it to the next meeting so you all can see it but the inscription says:  "The Salvation Army Westwood Transitional Village Expresses Its Sincere Appreciation to The Topanga Women's Circle.  Their work to provide warm homes for the Homeless Families and Children at the Village is life changing.'  We are humbled and honored by their appreciation.

Every speaker had a rapt audience

Teresa then talked a bit about her group, PSI Seminars, and their commitment to the Xmas gift giving initiative for the children (and their siblings) at Bessie Pregerson.  What a generous things for them to do.  Our gift gathering and Christmas wrapping party will be a LOT easier this year since they are handling the collection, wrapping and delivering of these 80 odd presents!  Thank you Teresa...VERY much.  She also shared Rita Street's donation to TWC of toys from a prior business, Prancing Ponies.  This is a terrific gift to TWC and we're most appreciative. 

These are some thank yous that Krista shared with us.  So sweet and so appreciated.

 A big thank you from the little ones at Bessie Pregerson CDC at Westwood

A thank you note from a family we helped at Westwood

And finally, we will be getting the list of children at Venice Community Housing and their Christmas wish list within the next few days and TWC is committed to creating a nice holiday for these kids.  In the past, TWC member Kelly Radinsky through her children's gift giving program at Mariposa School, collected the most beautiful gifts for us to share with the children at Venice.  She isn't handling the program this year, so we are asking each of our volunteers to contribute a nice Christmas gift so that we will still be able to put together something nice for these very needy kids.  We will be getting the list out to you of the (age, size and gender) and are asking that you will respond by choosing a child and a gift off the suggested list.  In the past, as most of you will recollect, we filled a giant Xmas stocking with gifts for each of them.  Let's hope that even if we can't do as much this year, it still will be something to thrill them.

A reminder of gift collecting, wrapping and giving last year!

Clicking on all photos brings them up to a bigger size.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Last Couple of Weeks

While Karen and I were away, Isabel organized the two set-ups at Westwood and did an admirable job.  She was flexible and unflappable and didn’t bat an eyelash when told the set-up organized for Friday had been moved to the following Tuesday. 

Their first set-up went quickly and smoothly and the unit, a ground floor on the freeway side, had all new furniture.  All was there and ready for the new family except the mattress which didn’t arrive in time for Isabel and Geraldine to make it look pretty.  Still, the family was, I’m sure, delighted with the new bed linens and pillows.

Geraldine did a great job in the kitchen and brought additional food and both she and Isabel brought fresh fruit so the cupboards were filled and the fruit bowl overflowing.  I’m sure it looked great. 

The second set-up that Isabel handled was postponed a few days, finally happening on a Tuesday, and thankfully she was able to handle the change in dates and, with the able help of Ildy, they created a nice home environment for the Franklin family who had moved in the day before.  Isabel reported that they had very little in the way of household supplies and so all that they did was greatly appreciated.   

Nefertari Franklin was in school, but Mrs. Franklin was at home as she was ill.  She was expecting TWC, though, and extremely happy and appreciative.  She loved everything that was provided and knew her daughter would really like the clothes and stuffed animals.  No photos, but a happy outcome! 

Ildy contributed fruit, rice, a couple of pillows and some shampoo…very needed items which we’ll use for further set-ups.

They were short a mattress pad for this set-up so Karen and I dropped one off later in the week.  Mrs. Franklin was so appreciative of everything Ildy and Isabel had done and was still glowing with happiness.

This past Friday Karen, Nancy Hanson and I headed over to Westwood for two small set-ups. Each had just one-bedroom with a trundle bed and we were able to do both within a couple of hours.

The first one was for Feydra Caldwell and her little one-year old son, Saedyn.  Unfortunately, her brand new furniture hadn’t yet arrived, but we managed to fix up the kitchen and bathroom and ‘pose’ the toys for little Saedyn.

Then we wandered next door to Oleisha Sanford’s one bedroom unit for her and her three-year old son, Marshawn.  We’ve got a few pictures of that set-up which went quickly and easily. 

Today when Karen and Mary went over to Westwood to drop off some items for an emergency move-in (that story follows), she saw Oleisha who came up to Karen and told her how very appreciative she was of everything we gave her.  She found it hard to express just how happy little Marshawn was with the little train we gave him.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you” was all she could say!

There also was an emergency move-in on Friday which Karen and Mary organized earlier today and then went over this afternoon so the family could get settled in.  Everyone was home and the father and his brother-in-law carried everything up to the apartment on the second floor which was very helpful.  They were so very appreciative and their little girl was over the moon with the stuffed animals we gave her. There was some confusion and the family was expecting TWC on Monday, so it was just good luck that they were home.  But it all turned out well; just not as tidy as we usually like it!

Still, none of that matters when you have a family that were as filled with gratitude as they were today.  They kept thanking Mary and Karen and shaking their hands.  Mom Wendy Moon said, “It feels like Christmas has come early!”  The three-year old little girl, Kassidy, took the stuffed bunny handed her and giggled and hugged it in absolutely delight.  Hard not to feel good about what we do when you see a reaction like this.  And all the while Baby Kaspian slept on in his pac-n-play in the middle of the living room!

So, it’s been a busy few weeks and who knows what the future holds!

Mary Morley (and her darling granddaughters) and Linda Mann (and her husband!) handled Friday's 'Open Bin' and when Karen and I got back to Pine Tree Circle after the set-up Mary and the girls were just finishing up.  Great job ladies!

Hope you all can make it to our meeting on November 17 at 7 PM.  Pictures follow from the set-ups.

 Ready to make some spaghetti for dinner.  Cookbooks to the left!

 No furniture yet but toys at the ready!

 All the bedding in front of the mattress.  The frame hadn't yet arrived.

 Bathroom ready.  Pretty shower curtain.

 Love the green and pink theme.

 Mom on top and little one's trundle bed underneath.

 A welcome note for the Mom and a sweet little Thanksgiving card made by a Topanga child (we think).  These were in the storage unit when we returned from our holidays.  Really sweet cards.

 The new living room furniture.  It's a lighter colored wood which feels fresher.

Mary's grandchildren busy helping at the Bin on Friday.