"New" Boutique's First Mobile Event
Three hundred and sixty guests from low-income East County neighborhoods on March 29 attended the first Boutique held since the White Pony Express Free General Store took the former SCA Children’s Toy & Clothing Boutique under its wing in January. The “new” Boutique is mobile – taking place in communities where those in need live. The March 29 event was hosted by Pittsburg United Methodist Church.
In addition to toys and children’s clothing, the Boutique now includes clothing for adults.
Scores of volunteers, including many who had helped with the Toy & Clothing Boutique for years, spent hundreds of hours over several months gathering and preparing donations for display. Clothing, toys, and books were donated by individuals and businesses and purchased with monetary donations.
The Pittsburg church felt very much like an upscale clothing store that day, and guests were treated like valued customers. Every room in the building was used for the Boutique. The largest space, the sanctuary, was devoted to adult clothing. (Boutique volunteers had moved the pews earlier in the day.) Other rooms were used for children’s clothing, toys and books, and shoes and accessories. Clothing, clean and pressed, was arranged by size on racks or neatly folded on tables.
Volunteers, including two professional wardrobe consultants, helped “shoppers” choose clothes that matched their needs, such as an outfit appropriate for a job interview.
Guests included some of East County’s poorest residents, many of them homeless. One girl, told that the two yarn dolls she had picked out would look good on her bed, said, “I don’t have a bed,” and looked away.
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.
But as the 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. The response was overwhelming. It soon became clear that the SCA had neither the funds nor the volunteers to continue the Boutique in its expanded form, where it would serve those in greatest need.
In January 2014 the SCA board of directors accepted an offer from Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, who had originated the concept of the Boutique six years earlier, to take the Boutique under the wing of the White Pony Express Free General Store. (The White Pony Express is the wildly successful program that picks up excess food from supermarkets, farmers markets, restaurants, and other donors and delivers it at no cost to programs throughout the county that feed the poor.)
More mobile Boutiques are being planned, and volunteers continue to collect and prepare items to give away. If you have items you’d like to donate, you can take them to The Meher Schools in Lafayette during hours school isn’t in session (7 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. weekdays). On the second tier, outside Room 6, you’ll find a rack and table for Boutique donations. The school is located at 999 Leland Drive, just over the Lafayette border.
There’s an ongoing need for volunteers to help collect and prepare items and to assist at the Boutiques. Visit the White Pony Express Free General Store website to learn more.