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Volunteering Through the Years: Connie Ott

Volunteering Through the Years: Connie Ott
April 19, 2020 Volunteers

We are so grateful for the volunteers who have made our work at MOM possible for 40 years. To celebrate MOM's 40th anniversary, we're sharing a few stories from some of our most dedicated long-time volunteers. Here are some of Connie Ott's memories of volunteering at MOM:

I am a member of St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church and have been involved with MOM from the beginning. Our family worked the St. Bernard's kitchen clean-up for many years for the Christmas dinner. I am a pediatric nurse and retired from University Hospitals in December 1999. At the Christmas dinner that year, I talked with Dietrich Gruen (the Executive Director at that time) about the possibility of a "clothing closet". He said MOM wanted to do that but did not have the money for a staff position. We met on January 6th for discussion and opened the "Closet" on April 1, 2000. 

The Clothing Closet was in a small efficiency apartment in the back of the house where MOM had their offices. I don't remember what our hours were but we served a lot of people as the word was passed around. Special memories are having fun clothes for the kids and also business casual clothes for women who had just gotten a job requiring them. 

Over the years, we moved from the apartment to the warehouse and then to our current facility which is arranged like a thrift store. The numbers of clients are many, the numbers of donors are many and the many volunteers make it all work well. It has been a joy to be a part of this for 20 years.

Around that same time, we started the backpack program. The first few years we just did elementary schools. It was a logistical challenge because we did all of the work in the MOM offices on Hubbard. Before pick-up time, we sorted the bags by grades and each office or cubby in the building had a grade designation. I believe the first year we gave out 54 backpacks. This program grew in a hurry and we added middle school and then high school. We moved the production and distribution to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church which has worked very well. 

Here is my favorite memory: I remember a first-grade girl with a name that could be a boy or girl (those were the days when the name was on the bag). When I brought up the bag, it was obviously for a boy. I said to the mom, "Oh we can change this. " She quickly said, "No, that’s fine. She is a real tomboy," with a smile. The first grader was elated! This program has grown over the years and runs smoothly thanks to leadership volunteers. This past year, there were over 700 backpacks distributed.

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