Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bake Sale, Year Two

Last year I did a post about a bake sale my Bible study group and I had. We raised money for a local ministry that does outreaches to strip clubs, and also has Bible studies for the girls, has transitional housing for girls who have left the industry and need a place to stay, and lots of awesome stuff like that. I was so stressed out about the event, from communication issues to fears that we would totally bomb when it came to donations to panic because I had never done anything like this before. I prayed for a loaves and fishes miracle, and I got it. And I was amazed at God's faithfulness and the fact that He pulled of what I considered a miracle.

This year, our experience was not so good. Feeling confident both in our ability as bakers and salespersons, I asked my Bible study group to pray that we could raise $650 for another organization this year- a non-profit that houses and treats girls who have been removed from their families. All these girls have faced abuse- physical, sexual, or emotional. Sometimes all three. All of them have developmental delays and other issues as a result of time in and out of different foster homes. And the sad reality is that many of them will reach adulthood and go out into the world having spent their formative teenage years in a group home or a dorm with this organization, because folks simply aren't interested in adopting or fostering teenagers. People want brand new babies or cute little kids. After a certain point, the statistical improbability of finding either a permanent or foster home for these girls just falls through the floor. That stinks. But they are such sweet girls. Some of them have some issues, but don't we all? I've come to care about these girls because one of the group homes is just a few minutes away from the library where I work, and sometimes the girls get to take little field trips up to the library with a staff member or two. I love when they come to visit, and they greet me with enthusiasm and excitement. I have met many of these girls in my 8 years at the library, but I respect and listen to all of them, and it's a joy getting to know them.

Since these girls often come to Maryhurst with just the clothes on their backs, they need donations of clothes. And shoes. And toiletries and household items. Books and movies. Scrapbooking supplies for therapy. The list goes on and on. I would love to be able to fund a complete transformation for the home in my area. I've been there several times, and some parts of it make me sad. They definitely take very good care of these girls, but let's face it- if you rely on the government and donations to take care of them, well, the government never covers very much, and people *usually* don't donate the best of the best. Think of the last stuff you donated somewhere- was it brand new? Probably not. And that's ok. Anyway, back to the house- they have a TV/rec room type place for the girls. Inside there's a busted old couch, an ancient TV with a DVD player that only works half the time, an old desk, etc. The room has some really cool built-in bookshelves (I love built-in shelves!) but you known what's on them? An old set of encyclopedias, some old dictionaries and Bibles, and a few teen and kids books from oh, 15 years ago. So we really wanted to provide them with a bunch of NEW stuff. Our dream budget had categories for clothes and shoes, personal care items, books and movies, scrapbooking stuff, household things like new towels, sheets and comforters (which can be found at great prices right now since back to school/college clearance has kicked in) and I don't even remember what else.

So we baked a bunch of stuff and set up a cute table- purple and teal plastic tablecloths, a sign hand-painted by yours truly (it had a cupcake on it!), friendly faces. We had a crock-pot with wassail since it was cold in the morning, and a cooler full of ice cold water bottles for later in the day (all at fair prices!) Our stuff was packed really cutely- for example, my friend Helen (who works with my mom) baked pumpkin bread in these beautiful fall-themed ceramic pans with Bible verses on them. They looked amazing! And we set out the donation jar from last year to encourage people to give even if they didn't want to buy sweets (we did have savory stuff, too, like pepperoni rolls and homemade parmesan herb flatbread)- the donation jar was a success last year, too. I'd say we probably made at least $100 in just donations last year.

Now, I'm not going to dwell on some of the people we encountered yesterday. Dwelling on the negative just breeds bad attitudes and bitterness. I will say, though, that we encountered a lot of people yesterday who were stingy and/or had bad attitudes. I'm not saying I expected people to flat-out empty their pockets into our donation jar, but it's super inappropriate to try to HAGGLE at a CHARITY bake sale table! Especially since there were fewer than a dozen things on the table that were over 50 cents! Sheesh. It was pretty gross. Oh, and it was miraculous how Louisville, the city recently found to have the largest population of people least likely to eat ANY produce, is suddenly on a diet! "I don't eat sweet things." "Ugh, if only I weren't on a diet" (said the rail thin blonde lady as she walked by without even peeking at what we had.) "I'm diabetic." "That bread is too fancy for me." One lady actually made a grossed out face every time we told her what something was- and she was the one asking about them. It was weird. It was like, the least charitable group of people I have ever encountered (and please don't read that as a criticism of the people I go to church with- the market was open to the public.) We actually talked about the fact that people were so enthusiastic about giving last year, "for the strippers", but abused girls who can't live with their families that might one day wind up being strippers if they don't have love and support and an education and job training? Well, forget them.

The bake sale, though, was not a complete waste. We are still going to be sending quite a few new clothes to the girls (or clothing budget was originally $150, so we figured we'd go ahead and spend the whole amount we raised on clothes.) And honestly, I got a lot out of the experience. Yes, I came away sunburned and frustrated with some aspects of the situation. Yes, I was a tiny bit peeved that there was only one lunch choice this year (last year we had a few food trucks) and that booth really didn't offer any selections- they had pork sandwiches and plain chips and tea and two Coke products. Kind of frustrating for a person who is extremely hungry but is also trying to live a vegetarian lifestyle. But I digress.

Lately I have really been struggling with a lot of things. I can't tell if it's just my depression acting up which is leading to all these emotional problems I'm having, or if the emotional problems are the result of something else and then that feeds into my depression, but whatever's going on, it's not good. I skipped Bible study this week because I didn't want to deal with anyone. I cried for a collective six or seven hours on Monday. I haven't been sleeping. I've been very on edge and extremely emotionally volatile. Sometimes I get so worked up that, well, it's really hard to get calmed down. I have had spiritual doubts. I have felt very lost and alone. I have feelings of bitterness and feeling left out, and it makes me stupidly angry. I can't even count the number of times I have said out loud to myself this week "no one listens to me." And I've felt invisible. But my experience this weekend helped turn a lot of that stuff around. People took care of me on Saturday- my mom brought me some stuff I needed really early in the morning, even though she had to go to work; my mother in law gave me a ride to and from church and helped me carry all my stuff; everyone was really helpful setting up and manning the booth- I didn't get left alone; my friends brought me coffee when they ran over to the store to get some breakfast and cups for the wassail. And I had some good conversations- one on one, or with just a small group. I felt listened to. I know I was listened to. I finally opened up about my recent struggles. I talked about my Compassion kids, and the kids of my friends that were there. We talked about the good and the bad stuff going on in my life. We talked about spiritual struggles and all kinds of stuff. That's kind of a big deal for me, since I'm by myself a lot and my husband isn't super chatty (he's very quiet and sometimes I need to not be quiet.) It was just really cathartic for me, for lack of a better term. Therapeutic, maybe. So last year, God answered my prayer (in the affirmative) that the bake sale would go well. Maybe this year what I really needed was to be heard and to spend some time with people I like and feel like they like me back. I got that. That was an answered unspoken prayer.

One more thing before I wrap up this little update: there was a really awesome booth at the market, and I want to tell everyone about it. Denise, my mother in law, had left for a few minutes to go check out the other booths. She came back with a new shoulder bag made of really pretty fabric. She showed me the tag and it said something about Uganda. She also said there was a photo album down there. So when I was walking down to get me some lunch from the pork extravaganza (ick), I found the booth. I walked up and said "is this the Uganda booth?" and the lady working laughed and said yes. I told her I wanted to go to Uganda and get me a Ugandan child someday, and she said "well we have one and we think he's pretty great!" The booth was run by some folks from Future Hope Ministries. They raise money (and awareness) for a ministry in Uganda that takes care of orphans who live in the streets. I mean, the goal is to not have kids living in the streets anymore, obviously. So this local ministry sells crafts from Uganda to support this ministry in Uganda. The lady running the booth told me that the director used to be a street kid himself. And then he got help and an education and now he's helping others! It's totally the kind of story we sponsors LOVE to hear. : ) And if I had the money, I would have bought out the booth. They had tons of jewelry, a lot of it made from those amazing paper beads I love so much. They had hair bows and ribbons. They had keychains and fabric wallets and coin purses. They had aprons and laptop-style bags and shoulder bags. They also had flip flops- the soles were made from old tires that had been gathered up from the dumps and repurposed! And all the money goes back to the kids and the folks who made them. It was awesome. I bought a pair of paper bead earrings, a hairbow with cupcakes on it (which is probably intended for someone much younger than myself) and a braided bracelet. The braids are made of white thread interwoven with silver, and there are purple paper beads in it. Then there's a little metal plate that says "hope." I love it. I found about fifty bracelets and necklaces I wanted. I know that they are working on getting an online store up and running- and you know I will shop there when they do! Here's their website and the site of the folks they partner with. It's pretty awesome stuff- you should check them out!

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