A New Home for the Boutique
White Pony Express Takes the Boutique Under Its Wing
The SCA launched the Toy & Clothing Boutique in December 2008 as a way to help Saranap and Meher Schools families struggling to make ends meet during the “Great Recession.” Over the next five years, we gave away thousands of clothing items, books, toys, and games to hundreds of families at 16 Boutiques.
As the recession receded and the need for assistance in our area lessened, we extended the reach of the Boutique to families in other, less-affluent parts of Contra Costa County where the need is still great. (According to the Census Bureau, more than one in 10 Contra Costa residents lives below the poverty line.) We distributed flyers to churches, homeless shelters, and other entities that serve low-income families, inviting those they serve to attend.
Through 2012, attendance at the Boutiques averaged between 50 and 100. At the May 2013 event, the first one held after we began broadening our outreach, 25 families from outside the area whom we hadn’t seen before attended. In October, as our outreach efforts grew and word-of-mouth spread, the guest list swelled to 500. Then, in December, nearly 1,000 people attended our Holiday Boutique, with some families traveling from as far away as Richmond and Brentwood.
“Staging the Boutique entailed a tremendous amount of work,” says SCA Community Service Chair Stephanie Monson, who coordinated the Boutique from the beginning. “But seeing the gratitude in the faces of the people we served made it all worthwhile.”
Even in its original form, every Boutique involved dozens of volunteers working for hundreds of hours over a period of two or three months. Serving more guests meant a significant increase in the number of donations we needed—plus buying additional racks and bins for displaying and storing items, finding new storage and work space, printing and distributing more flyers, recruiting more volunteers, and spending more time preparing for each event.
“While we were pleased to be able to help so many people who were genuinely in need,” Stephanie says, “it became obvious that the SCA had neither the funds nor the volunteers to continue the Boutique in its expanded form, where it would do the most good.”
Photo of Las Trampas Creek © 2013 by Patrick Mage