By Karen Billing
This year the Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit DreamKeepers Project is celebrating its 10th anniversary helping women help themselves.
Since 2004, DreamKeepers has been raising funds and awareness for the Family Recovery Center in Oceanside, a residential substance abuse treatment facility that allows women in treatment to keep their children with them as they recover and rebuild their lives.
More than just funds and donations, the DreamKeepers provide hope, confidence and a second chance.
“The joy you bring me from day to day keeps my dreams alive,” read a thank-you note from one FRC resident.
DreamKeepers co-founder and vice president Pat Gregory said the gratitude they receive from the women just pushes the organization to do more.
“It’s just grown and grown and grown,” Gregory said of DreamKeepers. “A lot of people are very passionate about the center and it’s amazing how generous people are.”
The organization will be hosting its annual Chocolate Event, a membership thank you from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, Oct. 13, at the home of Jeannie Ranglas in Fairbanks Ranch.
The event will feature a cooking demonstration by Chef Claire Allison, owner and executive chef of Claire’s on Cedros in Solana Beach, as well as the organization’s “famous and fabulous” raffle baskets, vendors and an assortment of quiches and sweets.
The Chocolate event is always free for attendees but they do suggest that people bring a donation for the babies and moms at the Family Recovery Center. Suggestions include diapers, baby food, baby books, sippy cups, infant and toddler socks and gift cards to Babies ‘R’ Us or Walmart.
DreamKeepers began 10 years ago when Gregory volunteered to bring a clothing donation to the Family Recovery Center. Once she experienced what the center was all about, she wanted to do more.
“I wanted to give something back,” Gregory said.
She ended up teaching parenting classes at the center and started to see how many needs for basic necessities the center had. She encouraged her friends and neighbors to clean out their closets for a fundraising drive. Those grassroots efforts led to the founding of DreamKeepers with her friend Vera Campbell to keep the project going.
Gregory’s friend Sandi Chenoweth got involved at the start and now serves as president of the nonprofit’s board.
“I felt like it was a good way to give back to an organization that really needed it,” said Chenoweth, who has been friends with Gregory since they were TWA flight attendants together years ago. “I really loved helping the women and children.”
Typically there are 55 women and 40 children under the age of 12 at the Family Recovery Center. The women are usually in rehabilitation for about eight to 12 months.
Over the years through DreamKeepers’ support, the home has been remodeled, kitchen appliances have been replaced and rooms have been refreshed. They provide educational scholarships, community college classes and a GED program and donations of clothing to Marjorie’s Closet for women to wear for court dates and employment interviews.
They’ve provided funds for much-needed maintenance, such as painting, flooring and asphalt repairs with the work done by a volunteer group from North Coast Church as well as provided heartwarming things like layettes for newborns, scrapbooks for moms to preserve memories, shoes for youngsters heading back to school and a storybook hour for the children at the home, a program that has since been taken over by National Charity League volunteers.
They’ve provided dishes and blankets for transitional housing, paid for day camps for the children this summer and made sure there’s enough turkey on Thanksgiving.
“We’re just kind of the backup,” Gregory said.
The Chocolate event is the only event they do all year but on Mother’s Day they also do a direct mail appeal with a focused need for the facility. This year the focus was building up a computer lab that helps prepare women to enter the workforce.
Last year they raised funds for a play park for children under 2 at the facility. There are a lot of babies born while women are at the center and they had no place to really be outside, Chenoweth said. The DreamKeepers revamped an old storage area that wasn’t used and transformed it into a play space with a rubberized surface and artificial turf, a ball pit, a caterpillar climbing structure, benches and picnic tables.
The group raised $10,000 for the park and received a generous matching donation from the Bertha family, who had found out about the group at a Chocolate event. The park will be named in her honor at a dedication ceremony on Sept. 17.
The park took much longer than they expected to accomplish but they are very happy to see it finally opening so the kids will have a place to play.
“It’s beautiful,” Chenoweth said. “It’s our pride and joy this year.”
The community is encouraged to attend the Chocolate Event, to meet the DreamKeepers board and hear more about their mission. RSVP by Oct. 8 for the event at 858-756-6993 or email contact@Dreamkeepersproject.org. Find out more about DreamKeepers at dreamkeepersproject.org.