Charity Begins in the Garage

John Brodey

If you saw the Sunday edition of the Press Democrat on Jan 31st, then you may have seen its interesting supplement titled ‘Sonoma Gives’. It presents a list of Sonoma County’s 100 largest nonprofit agencies and not-for-profit organizations ranked in order by their annual gross receipts. Altogether, there are 3,100 groups registered in the County which seems almost impossible. It starts with the largest NFP organization, the Redwood Credit Union with $216 million, all the way down to No. 100, the Presentation School a private primary school with $3 million in annual funding. The report also includes another 100 or so that all have budgets over one million. Unsurprisingly, there are the big names like Redwood Empire Food Bank and Luther Burbank Center for the Arts as well as lesser-known ones like the Earl Baum Center of the Blind, and the Living Room (for at risk mothers and children). The interests it represents run the gamut: Family and Youth Services, Education, Parks/Rec, Environment, Animal Shelters, Education, Senior Advocacy and Legal Aid.

At Rotary we happen to provide financial support to a number of agencies on the list. We are always on the lookout for those start-ups that have zeroed in on a previously under served need. Managing our avenues of support is all well and good but volunteering our time and energy is also an important part of charitable works. At the VOM Rotary, we have any number of ways for members to get involved and some welcome the opportunity to get their hands dirty.

Recently a dozen of such members saw a project right down their alley. The pandemic has been hard for everyone but especially for those going to school. Remote learning has been a challenge on so many basic levels. Equipment, connectivity and, in this case, something as basic as the lack of a desk. The ‘desk project’ involved assembling, sanding and finishing desks to be distributed to needy students in local schools. No big deal, right? All one needs is a few tools, patience, precut materials (provided), patience, instructions, sandpaper, more sandpaper and a good sense of geometry.

That said, I have PTSD from all the IKEA furniture I butchered over the years and I still don’t know what a ‘jig’ is for, so I was excused. Fortunately, a hardy group of 11 got together in each other’s garages and began the process of making 20 desks AND chairs! Some of the pictures were hilarious and while sawdust might seem to be a minor annoyance when compared to say, quicksand, you still don’t want to find it in your food or bed. As for our intrepid desk builders, a Big Thank You goes to: Mike Isola, Mike O’Brien, Marie Theilade, Daymon Doss, Valerie Hulsey, Phil Wigen, Susan Boak, Judith Kesot, Fred Polkinghorn, Claudette Brero-Gow and Jim Allen. Mike Isola and Valerie are shown hard at work in the accompanying photos. I have a feeling more than a few kids might find an ‘MI, VH or DD was here’ carved into the side of their desks.

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