By Gaby Dailey, Event Chair and Tania Thomas, Marketing Lead
From October through December of 2023, Hands4Hope youth planned the Warm and Fuzzy Drive and the Winter Boutique, where they collected and distributed warm clothes and handmade blankets to families in need to keep them warm and dry for the winter. Families who were referred from a Hands4Hope partner agency could visit the pop up boutique and "shop" for warm clothing and items. This year, we collected 5,827 new and gently used items with a value of over $54,500 through the annual Warm and Fuzzy Drive. Hands4Hope distributed 4,238 items to 148 families (741 individuals). The rest of the items went to various partnering agencies which include Cordova High School, ASPIREKids, Black Oak Mine School District, El Dorado High School, and Housing El Dorado.
To kick off the Winter Boutique project, the Hands4Hope Community Engagement Ambassadors worked with local elementary schools and businesses to collect new and gently used warm clothing in October. A total of 9 schools and 15 businesses participated in collecting items.
In addition, Hands4Hope hosted a Blanket Making Party to make no-sew blankets at Camerado Springs Middle School. Hands4Hope also offered an At-Home Blanket Making opportunity where participants bought no-sew blanket kits and completed them from the comfort of their own home. A total of 123 blankets were made through these events to help keep families warm during the cold winter months.
This year marked a brand new beginning to the Winter Boutique. Based on data gathered in previous years, we have come to the conclusion that moving the location from El Dorado Hills to Cameron Park provides a central location and better access for the families benefiting from this event. Aborn Powers, a local real estate company, graciously donated a space for us to set up the Winter Boutique. The committee members had the opportunity to be creative in figuring out the layout of the new location.
Committee members met and planned all of the behind the scenes work. The members included 5 youth leaders, 5 committee members, 1 adult mentor, and 2 adult staff members. Gabby Dailey was the Committee Chair and Logistics leader, Chloe Deiss was the Clothing Logistics leader, Taylor Milbrath was the Site Layout and Decor leader, Tania Thomas was our Marketing leader, and Addison Hunt was the Volunteer Management coordinator. We had 5 other members who were in one of the subcommittees. Those 5 individuals were Hailey Harris, Addi Merrill, Alex Franzi, Tavian Gutierrez, and Sylvia Zvereff. Our adult mentor was Kari Bunce, who was a previous elementary school teacher. Madeleine Vadenais also supported the committee by leading several set up events and brought her many years of experience with Winter Boutique.
Gabby Dailey shared, “I was nervous to be the Committee Chair because I have never been on a committee before, but I quickly realized that this is going to be such a fun project! I loved getting to see how grateful families were, our community coming together, and making new friends both on the committee and on setup/event days.”
Throughout the month of November, the Committee held multiple sorting and counting events where volunteers worked to sort and count clothing items into various sizes and categories. Later on, set up events were offered to display all the clothes and bring the vision of “Santa’s Workshop” to life. Many committee members created handmade decorations that were put up and displayed around the boutique. Taylor Milbrath made a "Santa's Workshop" banner which was displayed above the blankets so that was the first thing people saw. Addi Merrill made a red mailbox, and she reflected, “Working with my family to add a creative decoration was rewarding and I loved it when we all signed it.”
In total, Winter Boutique offered 21 events that brought 95 youth and adult volunteers. The boutique was open during 6 distribution days. This year, we opened on Fridays for extra convenience. After the Winter Boutique distribution completed, the committee members continued to work to pack the leftover clothing and help with tear down.
A big thank you goes to Rita Ferraro at Sierra Laundry for kindly donating their laundry services to the Winter Boutique. We would also like to acknowledge the talents of Judy who hand-knitted 300 hats for the Boutique and whose donations were greatly appreciated. During our time setting up the Boutique, the El Dorado Women’s Fund visited our location, and youth had the opportunity to guide them through the Boutique, discussing the project, committees, and their involvement in the project. Finally, thank you to all the schools and businesses that hosted collection barrels for the Warm and Fuzzy Drive.