A volunteer at the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County had pain in her knee. Medi-Cal preapproved all procedures except the MRI required before surgery, a cost of $300 she didn’t have. Morro Bay’s Bonnie Allen requested help from San Luis Obispo County Womenade. The funds were considered essential and provided. The volunteer got her surgery.
SLO County Womenade founder Sandy Richardson explained to members of St. Timothy’s Catholic Church Women’s Guild that when she retired from teaching, she read about a program that helped families with financial needs, and thought something similar could work here. She asked seven friends to invite their friends to a potluck. Each donated the $35 they would have spent going out to dinner to create the first cash installment. In 2009, SLO County Womenade became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and depends on quarterly potlucks to maintain cash resources. Appeals and updates are sent out through Facebook. From cribs to partial rent payments, this nonmembership network has provided more than $340,000 since 2003 to help people in crisis throughout the county.
Today, San Luis Obispo County Womenade provides time, items or one-time cash donations up to $300. Referrals come from schools, medical professionals, county health departments, and organizations such as The Family Care Network, Women’s Shelter Program, Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County and Prado Day Center. Richardson said every dollar or item funded is reported on its website, www.slowomenade.com. The nonprofit also has a Facebook page. Once a need is posted on that page, the goal is to verify the need and honor it anonymously and immediately. Potluck schedules and locations also are posted on Facebook, Richardson said.
“Our South County and Trilogy potlucks are Feb. 18. Everyone is welcome and donations vary more and less from the original $35 investments,” she said.
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Carol Devore of Los Osos is the area leader and hostess of the North Coast potlucks and will be scheduling her February potluck date soon, Richardson said.
Besides the potlucks, individuals and businesses create their own projects to support Womenade. One such ongoing project has been Pirates’ Closet at Morro Bay High School, which provides clothing and cash for students’ emergency needs. Devore credited Andrea Wasko and Meaghan Gilbert of Los Osos for collecting donations regularly for the high school project.
And for two years, Beverly Ford-Durrer and her husband, Lenny Blue, co-owners of Grandma’s Yogurt and Waffle Shop on Morro Bay Boulevard, promoted their shop as a drop-off site for clothing and contributions for three consecutive Saturdays in December. In 2014, two carloads and two truckloads of clothes plus cash were donated. Inspired by that success and by student needs, Durrer’s shop will continue to act as a collection site year-round.