By Betty Chinn
California, United States
THE TRUE SNOW WHITE’S DIARY
Dear Mr. Harald Walter Azmann,
I write to thank you and your readers for your generous donation to Betty’s Blue Angel, and specifically to the shower project that I have been embarking on at St. Vincent de Paul in Eureka. We recently received your donation of $3,000 supporting our shower fund, which currently has a balance of about $126,000.
You will be pleased to hear that the project is steadily moving forward. An architect has drawn plans for the project, we have secured a location and signed a contract with a contractor. We are currently in the process of getting city permits and raising the remaining funds necessary to make our vision a reality.
It’s your donation and others like it that are making this dream a reality. I am hopeful that Eureka’s homeless will soon have a place to shower and do laundry, improving their hygiene, health and self-esteem. I hope you and your readers take pride in this project, as you helped make it possible.
Thank you again for generously helping with my mission. I will make sure that your donations, and all I receive, go directly to the people you intended to help – the homeless of Eureka.
Please continue donating to Betty’s work directly through www.bettysblueangel.com.
St. Vincent de Paul, Betty Chinn move forward
with homeless shower project
By Thadeus Greenson, May 25, 2009
Some years ago, local philanthropist Betty Chinn was serving meals to the homeless when she noticed a man in a wheelchair who refused to come close.
“He said he smelled too bad,” Chinn recalled. “He was embarrassed.”
Chinn said she gave the man clothes, but he refused to change into them, saying he would wait until he could wash himself off that night in the bay. The man drowned that night, Chinn said.
“After that, I knew a shower would be so important,” she said. “After he died, I started taking people to shower.”
Chinn started taking the homeless to shower, first at a public shower at the marina, then later to the apartments of people she’d helped off the streets who wanted to give back.
When Chinn heard of some homeless kids being sent home from school because their smell was distracting other students, she added taking dozens of them to shower into her morning routine.
But the hours of driving people to and from apartments with showers has begun to take a toll on Chinn, who suffers from a great deal of back pain.
Finally, she decided it was time to simply build the homeless a facility of their own.
St. Vincent de Paul board member Russ Shaddix had already been working toward that goal.
In 2004, Shaddix got the Humboldt County Peace Maker Award, and an accompanying $4,000 prize.
“I had this 4,000 bucks, and I didn’t feel like it was mine,” Shaddix said.
“I felt like I was representing everyone else who does something good for the community.”
So, Shaddix started looking for a cause, and soon saw the need for a shower, began fundraising, and turned the $4,000 into $17,000.
The project stalled a bit until Chinn received a California Minerva Award last year, and an accompanying $25,000 grant, which she pledged to use to build the shower facility. Chinn also received sizable donations from tennis star Billy Jean King and German author Harald Walter Azmann.
Now, Shaddix and Chinn’s vision is within reach.
David Holmes, St. Vincent de Paul’s executive director, said he is hopeful the project will break ground in the next month, as a contractor has already signed on and received the approval of Eureka’s Design Review Board. All that remains, Holmes said, is the approval of the city’s planning commission and a bit more fundraising.
Holmes said the project will feature three shower stalls, one of which will be handicapped accessible, a laundry facility and a remodel of St. Vincent de Paul dining facility’s existing bathrooms.
But, Holmes said the showers won’t simply be open all the time. Chinn and a St. Vincent de Paul social worker will oversee a sign-up sheet.
“It’s not just going to be a free-for-all,” Holmes said. “We want it to be very structured, just to maintain the integrity and control of the area down there.”
“We want to be a good neighbor,” said Shaddix. “We don’t want to create any problems for the businesses down there.”
Holmes said the total cost of the project will be about $150,000, and Shaddix said he and Chinn are looking to raise about another $25,000, mostly to lessen Chinn’s contribution to the project and free up her funds for her plethora of other outreach efforts.
Ethan Jacobs, of McKinleyville’s All Construction, has signed on to be the general contractor for the project, and said he’s volunteered a fair amount of time coming up with plans and getting things moving forward.
“If everyone else was willing to volunteer their time, I felt I should do the same,” Jacobs said. “I just think it’s great that they’re doing this. There seems to be a pretty large need.”
Jacobs said he will implement a variety of green building principles in the project, including using recycled materials, installing an on-demand water heater and radiant heating.
The contractor said he is also working closely with management at the dining facility to ensure there are no disruptions to the facility’s free lunch program.
Chinn said she thinks the new shower facility will do wonders to improve the health, hygiene and self-esteem of Eureka’s homeless, which she said will in turn improve the community.
“I just think it will be great,” Chinn said.
For more information about Chinn, visit the Web site www.bettysblueangel.com.
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at (707) 441-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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