Almost a month ago now, terrible fires devestated communites just to the north of us here in the Bay Area. Though the fires were fifty miles away, we woke to the smell of smoke so strong it felt like it was in our own backyard. During that week, my kids' school in the East Bay closed due to the dangerous air quality. I answered their questions about the fires, calmed their fears, and we gathered donations to send north. My son Walt, being the deeply empathetic 7 year old he is, was overwhelmed with thoughts about folks in the region.
"Mom, what about people that were already poorer . . . how will they rebuild?"
"Mom, if businesses burned down, how will people go back to work? How will they make money? How will they survive?"
"Mom, what about teachers? It's already hard to be a teacher, but what if their school burned down?"
"Mom, how will people breathe again?"
In the middle of this week of worry, I found out that St. Anthony Foundation
, an incredible non-profit I used to work at in San Francisco, was opening its emergency shelter for four days to provide breathable space for folks living on the street. The air quality in the Bay Area was so bad, it was a health risk for people to be outdoors. But not everyone has the safety of shelter to protect them. SAF opened the shelter
it usually provides during the Winter months to people needing protection from the harmful air. Walt was relieved to hear about this. He has donated to St. Anthony's in the past, has visited many times, and was happy to know a place he loves was helping people he was worried about.
As fate would have it, that same day I received an email from GoFundMe asking me if they could feature Walt as a kid hero on their website ,and thanking us for the Pajama Drive Campaign
he led a couple years ago. I told Walt about it and a huge smile spread across his face. He said he wanted to do a new campaign . . . this time to somehow help homeless people. He said the fires made him think even more about people who were already homeless, and those who were now newly homeless because of the great loss in the North Bay.
We discussed what we could do, and then his 7 year old brilliance showed up. It was like I actually witnessed a lightbulb go on above his head! He told me, "I want to raise money for St. Anthony's because they are already trained with how to help homeless people and they do a good job." He commented that he liked how they opened the shelter for a few days for people to get away from the smoke, and that he wanted to help them run the shelter during the normal Winter Shelter
We brainstormed with my friends from St. Anthony Foundation, cool GoFundMe folks, and Walt's sweet, smart 6 year old sister, Naima, and decided to start this campaign to benefit the SAF Winter Shelter. Within a week, thoughts of worry turned into a plan for action, and we are happy to launch the Walt & Naima Winter Shelter Wish! Here are some of the kids' favorite things about the shelter:- Guests receive two meals (dinner and breakfast)- Guests receive hygeine packets- All are welcome! (including trans-people,
men, women, families, dogs and even pet bunnies)- Social Workers are available to guests to refer them to other SAF services like their addiction recovery program, clinic and Social Work Center- St. Anthony's Staff and Volunteers are really nice :-)
All the money donated to this campaign will go to the operation of the shelter which opens on December 1st. Walt wants to raise "somewhere between 1,000 and 2 million dollars" for the shelter! His dad and I are pretty sure he and his sister can do it! We will keep all donors updated about our progress, share shelter stories, and tell you about our own volunteer experiences. So please visit this page often, and share with your friends!