You can change the world, 1 book at a time.

by Marta Mahoney, Assistance League of Irvine, Volunteer

You may find this hard to believe, but I haven’t been to the thrift shop for ONE WEEK. That’s because I’m in Washington, DC on vacation. Being in Washington is an amazing experience for someone like me who loves history. Seeing the White House, the Capitol, the monuments, and the museums really connects you to the past. You realize that even if you were an average office worker wandering around on your lunch hour, you could be walking in the footsteps of Washington or Lincoln.

One of the tours I’ve done is the walking tour of the Library of Congress. (It’s a beautiful building, and I highly recommend this tour if you go to Washington.) The Library of Congress was founded by Thomas Jefferson, who donated his personal library to start it. In those days there were no public libraries, and many people were illiterate. But our Founding Fathers believed in the power of reading and the need for a national library. Today the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with over 38 million books and 164 million total items!

This struck a chord with me because at ALI, we also believe strongly in the power of books. Every child in our Operation School Bell program receives a book to take home (along with school clothing and supplies). They choose a book from a selection of grade-appropriate fiction and non-fiction books. For some of these children, it’s the first time they’ve had a book of their own.

This is where you come in, readers! We’re currently holding a book drive to stock up on children’s books for OSB. You, too, can be like Thomas Jefferson and donate a book (or books!). You can drop off your book donation at the thrift shop during our regular hours. Any local bookstore will be able to suggest appropriate books for elementary, middle school, or high school students.

And who knows – some day the child who reads your donated book may become an author with a book in the Library of Congress

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Are you prepared for an emergency?

Our hearts go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods in Texas. Over the past few days we’ve seen both the destructive forces of nature and the heroism of those caught in the storm. Watching the scenes on TV made me wonder: what would happen if we had a similar disaster here in Orange County? How many of us are prepared for a situation like this? Here’s a suggested list of emergency supplies published by FEMA. How many of these do you have in your home?

  • 1 gallon of water per person per day, for at least 3 days
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food (and a can opener and a pocket knife)
  • A flashlight with extra batteries (a headlamp is also a good idea, since this frees up both hands in the dark)
  • A whistle to call for help
  • First aid kit
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, a weather radio with a tone alarm, and extra batteries for both
  • Battery-powered cell phone charger
  • Dust masks, plastic sheeting, and duct tape to shelter in place
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties
  • Extra prescription medicine and eyeglasses
  • Copies of family documents (such as contact information, bank account information, insurance policy numbers) in a waterproof container
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for any pets
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, extra clothing, walking shoes
  • Keep all your emergency supplies together in a place you can get to easily

You can get more information on preparing for emergencies at www.FEMA.gov.   We all hope and pray that we’ll never have to endure a natural disaster, but with a little foresight, we can be prepared for that situation.

BACK TO SCHOOL – ALREADY????

At the supermarket this morning I saw a whole display of notebooks, pens, and rulers with a sign, “Back to School Supplies!” And it’s only the beginning of August. Don’t these poor kids get any summer breaks any more? Even if you like the year-round school idea, it sure doesn’t seem like they got much of a summer vacation.

ALI has actually been in “Back to School” mode for several weeks now. Operation School Bell, our largest program, starts up when the schools open in September. OSB provides school clothing and school supplies to income-qualified students in the Irvine Unified School District. There’s a lot of prep work that goes on behind the scenes. We make up a packet of instructions and applications for each school in the district. We schedule dates for “Meet and Greets” with families, and for shopping days at Target. Then we have a whole team of people, including teenagers from our Assisteens auxiliary, who purchase backpacks and school supplies, and assemble hygiene kits for each child (plastic bags with shampoo and other personal care items). We also start our BOOK DRIVE, asking for donations of books from the IUSD grade-level reading lists, so that each child can pick out a book to take home. When the families arrive at our Community Outreach Center (upstairs from the thrift shop) for the first “Meet and Greet,” we’ll have everything ready for them!

If you’d like to contribute to OSB, you can write a check to ALI and either drop it off at the thrift shop, or mail it to us at 2452 Alton, Irvine, CA 92606. Include a note that it is for Operation School Bell. To donate a book, you can drop off new, age-appropriate books at the thrift shop as well. Thrift shop hours are 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, or 10 am to 5:30 pm on Friday.

SKIP THE SUPPLEMENTS – VOLUNTEER!

The headline for an article in the June 2017 issue of the AARP Magazine read, “Planning to Live to 100? Volunteer!”

Now personally, I’m not sure I want to live to be 100. For one thing, I KNOW the DMV will take away my driver’s license by then. (On the other hand, I could find some cute guy from Uber to drive me around. I may have to rethink this.)

The real issue isn’t how long we live, but how well we live. And no matter how young or how old you are, volunteering does amazing things for your quality of life.

Eric J. Schneidewind, the president of AARP and the author of the article, writes, “A growing body of research tells us that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates and less depression, along with a greater sense of control over one’s life and high rates of self-esteem and happiness. Some studies showed that volunteers who devote about 100 hours or more per year to volunteer activities are the most likely to experience health benefits.”

If you’re serious about aging well (or simply living well now), add volunteering to your life. Find a cause you’re passionate about and join in. At Assistance League of Irvine, we’re passionate about our philanthropic programs – Operation School Bell, the Young Masters Art Show, and our Irvine Valley College Scholarships, to name a few. If we walk 10,000 steps while we’re working a shift at the thrift shop, so much the better. We’re not thinking about living to be 100 – we just want to give back to our community for as long as we’re able.

5 things you always want to know about the Thrift Shop (but didn’t ask)

FIVE THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE THRIFT SHOP (BUT DIDN’T WANT TO ASK BECAUSE YOU’RE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS THE ANSWER BUT YOU)

1. Where does your merchandise come from?

It comes from donations! Everything we sell has been donated to us – we don’t purchase any items for resale.  We accept donations at our back door (around the rear of the building) any time that the shop is open (on Fridays we take donations until 3 pm).

2. Why are the price tags different colors?

It’s an inventory management system that allows us to know how long an item has been in the store.  You don’t want to see the same things on the shelves month after month – and neither do we! Every month we change to a different colored tag, and after a certain period of time, we pull all the remaining items in that color.  The only exception is white tags, which are used for holiday merchandise and some of our specialty items such as antiques.  Besides – it’s more interesting to have different colors!

3.  What’s upstairs?

The second floor contains our Community Outreach Center, where we meet with clients of our different philanthropies such as Operation School Bell.  We also have an office, a small conference room, and our new mezzanine, where we store donations.

4.  What do you do with donations you can’t use?

We pass these items on to other non-profit groups.  Most of the donations that aren’t in good enough shape for our shop are given to the Salvation Army.  We also give things to several non-profits that aid veterans or the homeless, the Irvine Animal Care Center, and the Irvine Valley College Drama Department (they’re thrilled to get “vintage” clothing to use for costumes!).

5.  If I want to volunteer at the thrift shop, what do I do?

Tell one of our members at the shop (with the blue aprons!) that you’re interested.  We have several levels of volunteer support, from full ALI members to “community volunteers” who want to see if this experience is right for them.  We’ll ask you to fill out an interest form, and then our membership chair will contact you!

Vintage is the future!

At the Assistance League of Irvine thrift shop we get all kinds of retro, vintage, and just plain used items. “Retro,” “vintage,” and “mid-century modern” seem to be hot categories right now. For instance, the most popular specialty license plate at the DMV is the legacy yellow-on-black 1960s retro plate. I remember when I had an ORIGINAL license plate like that. If I’d only kept it. Like my miniskirts, my platform shoes, and my electric typewriter.

Browsing through the thrift shop can bring back many fond memories. Someone recently donated a whole set of vintage Corelle dishes. Every family I knew, when I was in junior high, bought a set of Corelle. Why? Because . . . You could put them in the dishwasher! My friends and I were ecstatic. No more evenings of washing china dishes by hand while your younger brothers and sisters hogged the TV. (The TV, which had a dial on it. Not a remote.)

If you want to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, stop by the thrift shop. We have the good (fondue pots), and the ugly (lava lamps). We don’t have the bad, because anything that isn’t in good enough condition to sell in our shop is passed on in turn to the Salvation Army.   And because there’s no such thing as a bad donation – there’s a use for everything somewhere.

Just in case you’re wondering they still make Corelle! It comes in pretty patterns now that go well with today’s decor. Maybe we should all buy some so that we’re prepared for the vintage trend in 2075.

Welcome to Irvine, aka ‘Little Seattle’

Irvine is having so much rain right now I’m starting to think we should re-name Irvine “Little Seattle.”  Here in Southern California, we’re not used to entertaining ourselves on days when it’s too stormy to even drive to the mall.  After an hour of “Storm Watch Breaking News,” on TV, it gets boring.  What can you do?

The ALI thrift store can give you lots of ideas for rainy-day activities.  You’ll have to make a trip to the shop BEFORE it rains, but you were planning to do that anyway, right?

For kids:

  • We always have miscellaneous craft supplies, and with some scissors and glue the kids can put their creativity to work.  (You’ll have to clear off the dining room table, but you can put all that stuff back once it stops raining.)
  • Pick out some of our more unusual or vintage-look clothing and keep it in a “dressing up” box.  The kids can make up a play where this box provides costumes and props. 
  • Board games and jigsaw puzzles are rainy-day staples. We’re constantly getting new donations of games and puzzles, and these are fun activities for the whole family.
  • For the grown-ups:
  • This is the time to try out that espresso machine/panini maker/blender/set of cookie cutters in the shape of flowers that you found at the thrift shop on your last visit.
  • This is the time to start that knitting project/sewing project/scrapbook that you found supplies for at the thrift shop on your last visit.
  • If you just feel like curling up by the fire, we have books, books, books! (Lots of kids’ books, too!) And DVDs!

Don’t worry – it will stop raining eventually.  But in the meantime, the thrift shop has plenty of things to keep you and your family busy!