You may have seen her — the long-haired, energetic Lisa Ray — handing out Halloween costumes to children of migrant workers or scooping up bags of donations in her Pismo Beach driveway.
She works 10- to-12-hour days running a home-grown nonprofit that in two years has gone from helping one single mom’s children to outfitting more than 3,000 homeless and other youth from Lompoc to Cambria.
Now, what was formerly known as Lisa Ray’s Donation Group has a new name — Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast — and a new venue where teens can pick out free clothing.
“Our new name more clearly identifies our primary mission,” Ray said. “Network reflects the fact that we work in collaboration with family service agencies, schools, shelters and government agencies, as well as partnering with the community, service groups and businesses.”
One such partnership is The Teens Closet, a place where disadvantaged and homeless teens or their parents will be able to pick out and try on donated clothing. Normally, teens receive a bag of clothing pre-sorted by other youth.
Students donate much of the clothes, partly because Ray visits classrooms to make them aware that so many of their peers are homeless.
“Teenagers of all ages have their own personality and own style they like to reflect,” said Ray, whose work has made her acutely aware of the challenges that homeless and low-income kids face. She understands that when kids feel comfortable in their clothes and are not teased for looking unkempt, they are more likely to stay in school.
Arroyo Grande Care Center administrator Matthew Lysobey ran into Ray while she was volunteering at a local food kitchen for the homeless, and the two devised a way to connect the seniors at his center with Ray’s mission. Now the residents, many in their 80s and 90s, will operate the Teens Closet out of a 12-by-40-foot portable building on the center’s property at 1212 Farroll Ave. in Arroyo Grande.
Last Sturday, as part of the countywide Make a Difference Day, Cal Poly students and Arroyo Grande Care Center residents helped paint and prepare the location.
Among them was resident Kathy Priciliano, who painted railings from her wheelchair.
“Even though we’re old and disabled, we don’t feel that way,” said Priciliano, who is especially excited to collect and distribute prom dresses. She and others are preparing for the Nov. 12 opening of The Teen’s Closet by sorting, cleaning and hanging clothing.
“Every resident that possibly can is trying their hand at it,” she added.
The hope is that the seniors, by helping teens, will benefit as well.
“Everyone needs to be needed,” Lysobey said of the seniors at his facility.
This collaboration with the care center, which is run by Compass Health Inc., is just one of dozens of projects that Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast has going at any one time. Yet, Ray knows it is not enough.
“We will have helped 250 kids in the last 30 days,” Ray said, “but that is just a small drop in the bucket compared to how many kids are in need. I want to do this the rest of my life.”