A local option for donating items

by Caroline Turney

According to the Gallup Nov. 9-12 poll, a third of adults nation wide (34%) expect to spend $1,000 or more on gifts this Christmas. The national average per adult is estimated at $826.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that the result is the equivalent of several items. Add the new stuff to the existing objects in the typical home, and the sum is a crowded living space.

No wonder that the holiday season ranks high for the time of year when households are most likely to get things in order. After all, friends, family, and gifts will be coming, and coming in large quantities no less. For those not inclined toward holding a garage sale, the not for profit Hope Center offers tax receipts for donations of clothing, toys, blankets, household items, and some furniture.

Donation hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Tuesday from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. The Hope Center is located on Hwy. 281 just north of Hwy 46. For more information call (830) 980-HOPE.

The Hope Center opened in November of 2004. Director Pamela Barquest recalls how it all started. During the winter of 2003, she had personally hit financial rock bottom in spite of management degree and a solid work ethic. In an attempt to make ends meet after being laid off, Barquest had begun taking odd jobs. While perched upon a ladder staining the exterior of what is now the Loft Coffee House, she came to the attention of Riverside Community Pastor Scott Heare.

Throughout the months that followed, Barquest shared with Heare the struggles she had encountered as a Comal County resident. Barquest remembers, “By June my unemployment benefits had run out. I was really searching for help, but all I could find were brick walls. Every agency I found or was told of would only help individuals in Bexar County.” After learning about the lack of resources for Comal County residents, Heare asked Barquest to assume a leadership role in forming the Hope Center.

Since opening, the Hope Center has provided assistance to 90 families, including 75 children, within 9 zip code areas.

Barquest, along with the help of several volunteers, has connected clients with 54 federal and state agencies and distributed $6,424.87 in financial aid. Financial resources come from foundational and private donations as well as proceeds from an annual spring garage sale.

Barquest is motivated to help others as a result of her own experience. “Our purpose as an outreach center is to help those individuals in crisis not meet those brick walls I encountered,” she said. “We don’t give them a list of agencies or phone numbers to call. We give them a specific agency and contact information that can best meet their needs. We can make the phone calls, assist with filling out the agency forms; we strive to ease their stress from the situation they are in. Our deepest concern is that they know we are there for them throughout the crisis.”

While her own struggle with unemployment has motivated her to serve others, her professional background has equipped her to do it successfully. Barquest’s management degree includes an emphasis in inventory management. As items flow in and out of the center, she knows exactly what is in stock, where it is, and what is needed. But, she says her 25 years of professional experience in dealing with inventory in relation to government contracts has been instrumental in running the Hope Center. “Documentation is critical. This has facilitated collecting the data that will be needed when the time comes to apply for grants. With two years of data, I anticipate that this will happen in the next year,” she said.

The Hope Center welcomes the contribution of anyone who has a heart to share their time or other resources. In conjunction with providing clothing and household items, the center also runs a food pantry.

“With the holidays coming,” Barquest said, “and the children being home, families have to feed members who are normally fed at school through the free breakfast and lunch program. Thus the food pantry here is in need of soup, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit and restocking in general.”

Spring Branch resident Suzanne Meador volunteers at the Hope Center twice a month. She says she does it because, “There are all kinds of things that come up in your life that you might need a little extra help with. It’s here for the community. It gives hope for people who get into a situation that they may have never been before.”

Antionette Pinto of Spring Branch also volunteers regularly at the center. She offers a reason for people to consider donating locally. “A lot of local people come through. You don’t realize how many people in Bulverde, Spring Branch, and Canyon Lake need help.”

Holiday Clutter Control Tips

Appearances on HGTV, “Regis and Kathy Lee”, and the “CBS Morning Show” as well as quotes in publications such as USA Today, the New York Times, Reader’s Digest and Family Circle have made The Clean Team Founder Jeff Campbell a sought after speaker and media personality. He has become widely regarded as America’s home cleaning expert.

Campbell has incorporated several years of experience in cleaning over 300,000 homes into what he calls “Dirt University”. His experience and research have been shared with readers in his books, Speed Cleaning, Spring Cleaning, Talking Dirt, Good as New and Clutter Control.

In an interview last week with the Times Guardian, Campbell offered his advice for a quick holiday clutter control trick. “Christmas is a good time to visit all the chatkahs (collectibles) on tables and shelves in the rooms that company uses, scoop them up and put them in boxes until after the holidays,” he said.

“This accomplishes two purposes. First, it creates space to put your Christmas decorations and for your guests to put drinks, opened gifts and so forth. Second, it eliminates breakage of your things by grandkids, visiting grown kids, dogs and the occasional accident-prone relative,” Campbell added.

“An unexpected benefit is that after Christmas, after you realize how much easier it is to clean your house without all those chatkahs sitting all over the place, you may just leave them in their boxes for a future garage sale and enjoy your less-cluttered home.”

In his book, Clutter Control, Campbell outlines 13 rules for keeping things in order. (For details, visit www.thecleanteam.com.)

Rule 1: When in doubt, throw it out.
Rule 2: Use it our lose it.
Rule 3: Efficiency counts, so store things accordingly.
Rule 4: Handle something once.
Rule 5: Recycle it.
Rule 6: Pick a number and stick with it.
Rule 7: Use a file cabinet
Rule 8: Do something
Rule 9: A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Rule 10: Items displayed in the house have to pass a test.
Rule 11: Don’t do things “later”.
Rule 12: Label things.
Rule 13: Call in a professional.

In addition to the enjoyment of clearing out to create a less cluttered home as mentioned by Campbell, a recent report in The Economist suggests reasons why giving away rather than selling unwanted items may be physiologically beneficial. The study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was experiment where participants were allowed to decide whether to keep or anonymously donate money to charity.

Using magnetic resonance, the brains of the subjects were examined to see responses to decisions about donating. When the participants chose to give, the reward center of the brain controlling dopamine was activated. Dopamine is the neurohormone associated with feelings of euphoria. In short, scientists have discovered evidence that giving really does feel good.



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