“In the summer of 2009, we found ourselves without jobs, no prospects and with three children to take care of,” Suzanne Shafer explained. “We turned to the available government-funded assistance programs such as unemployment, S.N.A.P. (formerly known as Food Stamps) and Medicaid. These programs provided a small income, food and basic medical care for the children.”
The Shafers had not been in this kind of situation before and they realized that personal health and hygiene products could not be purchased under S.N.A.P. or W.I.C.
The small income they received was quickly consumed by basic-need bills such as utilities. The Shafers learned that there are many others faced with a similar situation while most of the homeless do not even have these resources. “Local charities provide food , but stock little or no non-food items,” Shafer added.
Some of these non-food items they struggled to keep on hand included: soap, shampoo, toothpaste & toothbrushes, bandages, deodorant, dish soap, laundry detergent, household cleaners, paper towels, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, tissue, diapers, baby wipes and other products that would be considered essential to good health.
The Shafers experienced what many others in our community have to deal with and they wanted to turn what had been a hardship for them into a positive program. Dreams of Thomaston was formed by the Shafers to address this critical omission in the public assistance programs.
Dreams of Thomaston just wrapped up their first Neighborhood Collection Drive. Bags and fliers were placed on the doors in a 2800 home local neighborhood by volunteers. These bags were then collected and will be presented to Grace ‘n’ Grits, a charity organization that feeds the homeless in Sanford every Wednesday. The remainder will be used to fulfill monthly distribution recipients and to replenish stock that was depleted helping the tornado victims in Georgia.
As the services offered continue to expand, Shafer also announced that they will be making a special donation to Russell Home for Atypical Children in July from items recently collected.
When the Dreams of Thomaston staff heard about the Vacation Lodge Maingate fire in Kissimmee Sunday night, they responded to some of those in need. Personal hygiene and other products were quickly collected and are ready for distribution for some former residents. The more they are able to collect from the community, the more they are able to distribute.
Dreams of Thomaston collects these necessities through donation drop-off boxes and special events. The items are then distributed to those in need while providing for a one-time emergency or on a recurring monthly basis.
Local businesses, groups, churches, stores and other places where people congregate can help the community by providing a drop-off location. Dreams of Thomaston volunteers can later pick up the items collected at your convenience. Valerie Michaels, property manager for Autumn Run Apartments and Condominiums in Altamonte Springs, keeps a large container in the leasing office for residents to leave donations.
Dreams of Thomaston is named after a small, quiet town in Georgia where Suzanne Shafer was raised. “It is the kind of town where everyone knows each other by name and quickly unites to aid someone in need,” Shafer reflected. “It is in this spirit that we come to help those in need during these troubled economic times.”
The organization serves those who find themselves in situations where they are on little or no income or fixed income such as seniors on pension or disability, veterans in VA hospitals and even homeless.
“Locally, we have distributed to individuals, families and assisted living facilities,” Shafer said.. “Nationally, we have shipped items to individuals and families across the country including California, Ohio and to the tornado victims of Barnesville, Georgia.
The Shafers goal is to develop a facility which would function as a warehouse for receipt, storage and sorting of donated items and a public service center that people could come to directly for needed items or arrange for monthly distributions.
For further information, visit the Dreams of Thomaston website or call 407-413-9401. Dreams of Thomaston is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and your donations are tax-deductible. You can make a secure monetary contribution at http://www.dreamsofthomaston.org/?page_id=167.