Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Takes a Village

I have been remiss on sharing how well our big set-up, back on November 18th, went and I am pleased to say it progressed extraordinarily well because of the amazing response from our terrific volunteers.  Just a couple of days past Veteran's Day, I know we all really wanted to help this Vet and his large family...Mom, Dad, three boys (aged 19,13 and 12) and three girls (aged 17, 15 and 9) and help we did.  We were able to turn this four-bedroom, two-bath unit into a really welcoming home for this family who have gone through so very much.

After my email went out, Paula Fagan wrote back within minutes it seemed, saying she was on her way to the Valley and would pick up a broom, dustpan, large kitchen trashcan, juice boxes and granola. She also said she could help with the set-up if we were short on volunteers but that she was setting up an art show...we were able to let her off the hook since so many of you came forward to help.

Then Wendy Skolfield dropped me an email, a couple of minutes after Paula, saying she too would pick up a broom, dustpan, trashcan, mini broom and dustpan, kitchen gloves and 2014 calendars, most of which are being used in tomorrow's set-up.

Deborah Kashinsky, Paula Dove and Allyn Katleman volunteered to help but we let them off the hook cos there were so many of us.

Lizzie Kipner and Randi Gottlieb did a terrific job (wait til you see the pictures below) of coordinating the perishable food for this family and Lizzie's good friend, Pat Farrar, also contributed MANY bags full.  Paulette also contributed so the kitchen was full to bursting but with six children, I am sure it will all be eaten.

Joining Karen and me at the set-up were Mary Morley, Sue Forbes, Lizzie Kipner and Randi Gottlieb stopped by (she was working) and put in an hour of effort as well.  While it was a lot of work (and a pretty warm day), the apartment looked really warm and welcoming when we finished and we were told by the staff coordinator for new tenants that the family was overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for all we did.

Photo Evidence below! Karen took the pictures, sent them to me and while I know there were more than this, I cannot find them.

 The younger boys bedroom

 The bedroom shared by the three girls.  The darling pink furniture, chair, rug, table and lamp were all donated by a friend of Karen's.  This room was so sweet and didn't feel at all crowded. 

 We were running out of space for all the food!

  Such a small kitchen and so much to put away!

 Mary giving some suggestions of just where everything should go!

Trying to figure it all out!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tuesday, November 5 Meeting

Monday, December 2 Meeting:  Location to be announced (would anyone like to host this meeting?)

Saturday, December 21 and Sunday December 22 if needed:  Wrapping gifts for Venice kids

While I was sorry to miss all of you at this meeting, through the wonderful notes that Nancy took and my chats with Karen, here is a recap for all of you who were unable to attend.

Firstly, many thanks to Catherine McClenahan for hosting the gathering at her lovely home.  Catherine is always a terrific host and this was no exception.

A warm welcome to Allyn Katleman who has recently joined TWC and has already done her first set-up.  Thanks for your interest in TWC, Allyn, and we look forward to seeing more of you.

Karen reported on a wonderful surprise gift from a fellow Advisory Board member at Westwood Transitional Village, Debbie Isaacman.  Debbie has worked with the same group of girls, including her two daughters, from elementary through high school, first as a Brownie leader and staying with them as they progressed to Girl Scouts.  A great believer in public service, Debbie has obviously instilled this spirit in the girls and this summer, as the troop disbanded and final plans for heading off to college were made, they decided what they would like to do with the profits from their 2013 cookie sales and Topanga Women's Circle was the lucky recipient of their generosity...$750!  What a very special gift for us, especially with Christmas fast approaching.

And yet another story of generous high school girls...Liz Dupuy, TWC volunteer and art teacher at Louisville High School, was involved with their Spirit Week activities, one of which included each class year having a 5-gallon water jug which they were asked to fill with silver (which were negative points) just pennies.  And the group who collected the most pennies won spirit points.  Let the competition begin!!! What happened was nothing short of clever...girls sneaking and throwing handfuls of silver into the other jugs and then retaliation by other classes!  It was all in good fun and amazingly successful!  The monies collected were split between three worthy charities, including ours. Liz will be taking a group of girls out shopping in the New Year for items that we especially need with the $333 awarded TWC! Thank you, Liz!

And here is another fantastic group of girls led by Jenny Griffiths.  In early October Jenny sent me an email in which she said her mother/daughter group was so inspired by the work we did that they made some art boxes for us to include in set-ups...quite a few art boxes!  I was away when Jenny delivered them to our Bin, but they are just terrific and will be a welcome addition to our set-ups.  She said when they were deciding what to put in the boxes, one of the girls came upon a bunch of art supplies that Marlene Frantz had no need for and had put out on the road for anyone to take...and these girls took those supplies and included them in the creative boxes that they put together.  We will be taking one or two for sure to our big set-up on Monday, November 18.

We will be getting the date to you shortly, but Azmina's wonderful Xmas sale (in which she generously shares some of her profits with TWC) is coming up in December.  This is a wonderful event and anyone who was at the meeting at Leslie Carlson's house in September got a taste of the beautiful items Azmina will be selling.  Because of time constraints, we discussed how we can best market and sell the gorgeous items Azmina is offering us at less than cost in the upcoming year.  We will let you know the sale date for her big Xmas sale soon.

Discussed at the meeting was the idea of having a particular theme for each meeting, i.e., bath items (soap, toothpaste, sanitary products, etc), non-perishable foods, etc, i.e., things we are running low on.

We will get to you a list of good prices for items so if you are out shopping and see a great sale, for example, on pillows, you can buy a bunch and we will reimburse you.  Lisa O'Laughlin saw a great sale at Target on sheets and purchased around 22 sets!  The price was amazing, she recognized it and boom, in her own inimitable way, she bought 'em!  Yay Lisa!

Patty Colvig has put together a non-perishable food list which was passed out at the meeting. Thank you, Patty.

And along this line, it is a great time of year for non-perishable food drives.  You see the bins everywhere, so why not have some for TWC?  Patty and April are on this one and at the Topanga Chamber meeting this week, there were already some donations (thank you Catherine Grasso!).  A friend of Karen's is collecting at her salon.  Perhaps we should ask our own salons to consider placing a Christmas bin for TWC?

We will be getting an on-line, interactive, sign-up site for the Christmas gift giving for the kids at Venice Community Housings Transitional Living Center.  Some of the gift items are larger ticket items and would be great for us to team up with others for purchasing.  Share the love!  Barb Metzenbaum has offered to organize this for us. Thanks, Barb.  Linda Handler recommended this website:

The idea was shared that every holiday gathering we have, why not make it a non-perishable food drive (that is where our list would help).  For example, Catherine McClenahan's Scat Salon and her neighborhood Christmas party will be gathering food this way.  Susan Lovell and Lisa O'Laughlin did this to great success.  And speaking of Susan, she passed on a birthday gift from her niece...instead of buying Susan a gift, she made a donation to TWC.  How kind was that!?

Allyn Katleman has volunteered to head our holiday card committee.  Thank you, Allyn.  We will talk with you further about this in the upcoming weeks.  April had mentioned that she thought it would be great to have some Hanukkah cards and we all agreed.  In the meantime, Jill (Green) Palethorpe has already designed and is printing some darling Bar and Bat Mitzvah cards.  Thank you, Jill.  Debra Skelton also brought up the importance of some blank cards...good point, Debra, and we will include blanks in this next card making drive.

Speaking of Jill, she organizes events (weddings, etc) at her beautiful Malibu home and has offered it to us for a fundraiser...obviously this has to be well planned in advance so there are no date conflicts, but keep your fundraising hats on ladies!  Karen and I took a trip out there a few weeks ago to collect many terrific items from her including dishes, cutlery, glassware, etc that had been left by caterers and never picked up.

And finally, there is a wonderful organization in Venice, just down the street from the Transitional Living Center, called SPY (Safe Place for Youth) and tries to help youth living rough in the Venice area by offering these runaway kids a hot meal twice a week, warm clothing, sleeping bags, blankets, etc.  It is also an incubator charity under the umbrella of Community Partners and whenever we have an excess of sweatshirts or t-shirts, etc., we will pass them along to SPY.  So, we have a request for all of you.  The weather is turning colder so would you all check your closets and if you have any old sleeping bags that you no longer use, would you let us know and we will deliver them to SPY.  Thanks!

December is always a busy month for families and TWC and this year is no exception.  Here are some dates which will hopefully work for all of you.

Monday, December 2 Meeting:  Location to be announced (would anyone like to host this meeting?)

Saturday, December 21 and Sunday December 22 if needed:  Wrapping gifts for Venice kids

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Gathering and Final Holly Set-Up

We had a great meeting last night at Leslie's house.  As always, it was the absolute perfect setting for a large gathering and there were close to 30 of us. A beautiful summer evening, terrific ladies, fabulous food (TWC members are terrific cooks), good wine and so much was such fun and the photos below give you some idea of it all.  Don't you just love an outdoor table that seats over 30 with great lighting AND heat lamps.  Here we are...from both ends!


So many choices

Thanks to Nancy Hanson for taking minutes of the meeting.  For those of you unable to attend, here is what we covered.

Karen began by reading a heartfelt thank you note from the Crane family.  While we get many thank you notes, this one seemed to cover every little thing we did for them from the wonderful sewing kits (thank you Karen and Chapman girls!) to the new bath and bedding items, fresh and non-perishable foods, personal care items and toys and books for the children.  

We passed around the sewing kits and requested that Linda Handler might do another button and thread drive at Topanga Elementary.  Last year, Linda did a school-wide button drive which was amazingly successful!  Thanks, Linda.  These kits are a pretty terrific addition to each set-up.

Something I failed to mention last night was this...we need art supplies for the children.  We are now out of crayons, paper, coloring books, stickers, etc etc etc.  I love giving each family something to encourage the children's creativity.

We chatted about the number of set-ups we completed this summer which has resulted in a sadly emptied bin.  Patty Colvig suggested that we create a PDF that is part of our website so it is easy to print out a list for anyone who asks what can I do, what do you need? We are on it! 

Our new Advisory Board was introduced and joining Janaki (who is in London visiting family) are Teresa Rosati-Royer, Lisa O'Laughlin and Nancy Hanson.  Teresa and another group that she belongs to have taken on Christmas for the children and their siblings at the Bessie Pregerson CDC...what an amazing gift. This year it will include over 90 children.  TWC will be giving them some seed money to help kickstart their fundraising.  Lisa is our ideas gal and came up with the Saturday Open Bin day which has really given us more visibility within the community as well as other ideas for fundraisers, etc.  And Nancy is our great communicator.  She handles all the open bin scheduling as well as our Topanga Messenger adverts.  I know with these four women helping guide TWC into the future, we are bound to do well.

Karen spoke of a yoga friend of hers who is going to institute a fundraiser among her friends so with Joanna Gunst's help, we will create a flyer that can be used by others wanting to organize a donation bin for TWC.  Susan Lovell said she will put a flyer up in her staff room at work.  Patty Colvig suggested using the Topanga Farmer's Market as a collection point for non-perishable foods in November and is willing to investigate and perhaps form a committee.  Perhaps we could have a small article in Messenger.  Nancy could you investigate this please?

Azmina shared her great idea of a fundraiser and showed us her beautiful scarves and jewelry.  More info to follow, but we will definitely plan an event close to the holidays!  In the last blog posting you can see some examples of the lovely pieces that she hand paints.  Besides holiday sales, we need to be thinking of other venues for sales such as Topanga Days, Venice Arts Festivals, Farmers Markets, etc.

A thank you went out to Leslie for her donation of the two bins which has revolutionized our lives.  We do tend to go on about these bins, but many of us remember how tough life used to be BB (Before Bins). And speaking of the Bins, Nancy produced a sign-up sheet for Saturday morning volunteers and, as always, our fabulous volunteer base responded.  

A big thank you to Lisa O'Laughlin and Susan Lovell for hosting parties where they asked for donations for Topanga Women's Circle. What a resounding success that was and something we should all keep in mind the next time we entertain.  The generosity of our friends is pretty amazing.

Randi Gottleib had an interesting idea about donations that come into the bin.  Sometimes items are given to us which really do look like they are something special...perhaps an antique or a collectible.  How about if we create a special place for items that we think just may be worth something...perhaps we could sell these items (eBay?) to raise needed monies for TWC?  There was a lot of interest in this idea.

Our next meeting will be November 5 at Catherine McClenahans home.  More details closer to the date, but mark your calendars now.  Besides being Guy Fawkes Day (in the UK), it is also Election Day.  Politics, then and now.

We made the sad announcement at the meeting that Holly (and Richard) and her mom, Margie, are moving up to Bend, Oregon later this month.  We will miss them so very, very much because besides their wonderful energy and optimism, look at how purty Holly makes every set-up look.  All the kitchen and dining room pictures have Holly's special touch.  We will really, really miss you two beautiful ladies.

 Holly can make paper napkins look elegant.

 This beautiful cookie jar was one of the donations from Susan Lovel's party.  Nice, huh?

 Cup of tea?

All the makings for a pasta dinner and gorgeous tea towels

 Looking into the dining room/kitchen from the living room.  Cute lamp!

Speaking of lamps.  Look at this beauty. This photo is a lamp that Mi Casa Lighting (22201 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills) provided the shade, bulb and finial for, free of charge.  Both of these lamps would still be languishing in the bin were it not for their generosity.  So this is a shout-out to Mi Casa with a big thank you to them for their continued support of Topanga Women's Circle.

 Telltale touches of Holly!

 Teenaged girls bedroom

 Great nail polish from April, darling belts donated from Jalan Jalan and sweet
bags donated by Wendy takes a village!

 A wonderful donation from Marlene.  These kids will enjoy this game for sure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer is almost over, kids are returning to school and apparently this blogger took the summer off!  But just because I was not writing about what we did doesn't mean that nothing happened.  The following are some photos that give you a general idea of some of our activities, from open bins to set-ups.

While there were frustrations aplenty, both at Venice and Westwood, the problems were mostly due to faulty communications, something that frustrates Karen and me more than we can say (especially when we have volunteers ready and on-site...grrrrr).  One attempt at a set-up at Westwood was aborted due to a severe roach infestation...and my nose itches just thinking about it. There were seven or eight of us ready for that set-up but instead of decorating we headed off to Montana Avenue for coffee and nibbles. (Thank you Lizzie...whose back itches at the thought of roaches!)  Good times!

Highlights of the summer have been aplenty, though, and a few of the photos below will show you the magic we are able to create.  For Karen and me, a major highlight each and every week is your amazing devotion to our dear Bin!  Thanks to Nancy's email updates and superior scheduling talent and the way all of you have filled in each and every date, the community has come to expect us to be there every Saturday morning from 9 to 10:30...and we are!  Some mornings are crazy busy and others are just terrific times to have a coffee and do a little sorting and chatting.
Bin Goddesses, Catherine and Holly hard at work and the Bin....
aisles packed and ready for a set-up

And now cars at the ready and loaded

This happens pretty is almost 10:30 and the volunteers are all set to close the doors  on the Saturday morning open bin when a car drives up, all the doors open, and a cheerful donor who is so happy that she was not too late and has a few things for us. This was great kids clothing and many, many wonderful toys.

And then one day Lizzie Kipner gave me a call and said she had a few things for us.  So we met up at the Bin and THUD...her entire car was filled with bounty from Costcos.  Mac n cheese, peanut butter and jely, soups, soaps, washcloths, toothbrushes, 
pasta and spaghetti sauce and some darling baby clothes.

And here are a lot of pictures from various set-ups...each one so different.

I can always tell when Pat Lester has been on a set-up because she never fails to bring fresh flowers from her garden.

And I know when Holly has been on a set-up...I mean who else creates a paper fan 
and decorative greenery with a roll of paper towels.

Groovy Girls.  I forgot who donated all these great GGs, but they sure made two sisters happy at the Transitional Living Center at Venice Community Housing.

Karen and I had a small set-up at Westwood.  I was in the kitchen and she was back in the mom's bedroom when I heard a squeal.  I went running back and after being initially startled, she was laughing at something we had inadvertently brought to Westwood from Topanga.   

So we took him outside and introduced him to his new home.

Potholders  in both pictures below made by Pat Lester.  They are gorgeous!

TWC volunteer Azmina Kanji has a great idea for a fundraiser.  She has the most exquisite jewelry and silk scarves, made by hand at her businesses in India.  Here are some examples of her lovely work.  More details to follow, but Karen and I are really excited about this project.  Holidays will soon be upon us and these are just the most beautiful gift ideas!

Gorgeous quilt on the back of the couch, a pretty lamp and a twenty dollar rug from Ikea really help make the room like welcoming.  Dont forget to bring your recent magazines to the Bin...National Geographics, Vanity Fair, Decorating Mags...anything light and not too date sensitive.  
Nice to put on the coffee table and by the bed.

Here are some great perishables that Paula Fagan brought for our last set-up.  
Lorna and Linda Mann went down to the herb garden in Venice and included a nice sprig of rosemary with the fruit.  I spy two more Pat Lester potholders.

Bougainvillea in a vase and a new shower curtain really helped to create a lovely color palette in the bathroom.  Everything kind of matches, right?

The set-up below was for a mom and her two little boys, aged 4 and one.  They had been living in a shelter (had to be out at 8 AM and not allowed back til 6 PM) for quite some time and were so excited about their new shared housing at The Transitional Living Center in Venice.  They will share the bathroom above with another mom and child but the bedroom below is just for them.  Baby in a crib and mom and 4-y.o. in the bunk bed.

Catherine, cleaning with attitude in Venice!

I dont know if you all know about Baby2Baby (they are them!) but they are a wonderful group we have been associated with since their early days in a shop front on Pico Blvd.   They recently put together some fantastic goody bags for the children at the Bessie Pregerson CDC after asking us for a list with their names, sizes, likes, etc. They said they would drop me a line when they were ready. After I got word that the bags were waiting for us, Sue Forbes and I headed over to Baby2Baby where we quickly realized we should have brought two cars! Look at all the bounty!  You can just about see Sue behind the bags!

Another big shout-out to Baby2Baby for all their donations to us of cleaning products and laundry detergent from The Honest Company.

And finally, check out our great sewing kits below.  The Chapman girls helped make the pincushions.  Good job, girls!!!  Pictured below are examples of the kits with two wounded stuffed toys.  Mickey had lost his whiskers and the frog had a serious injury to his throat.  Karen repaired them and with these kits, the moms will find that they have all they need to hem a pair of pants or sew on a button.  We now give a sewing kit to each family...a wonderful addition to the set-ups.

And do not forget...we are always in need of non-perishables.  Our stocks are constantly running low, so keep us in mind when you are at the grocery store.  Also, needed are  components for these sewing kits:  needles, thread (black, white, tan), pins, measuring tapes, scissors, etc.  

Stay cool and we will see you all soon.