Soroptimist Secret Santa’s Deliver

Soroptimist Secret Santas

The Pandemic Didn't Keep Santa Claus from coming to Borrego Springs

This month, Santa’s Borrego friends collected and delivered big boxes of food and overflowing gift baskets, containing $100 in Soroptimist Secret Santa cash.

The Borrego Springs community responded generously to the $100 Soroptimist Secret Santa request, with enough funds to meet the goal of brightening Christmas for 18 families with cash and baskets of gifts and food for the families of women, who are primary providers for their families, and have lost jobs due to the pandemic, care for an elderly, or ill parent, and have children of their own.

Soroptimist Secret Santa Gift Basket

The women were identified by Borrego organizations, like the Borrego Ministers Association that have been assisting families, as families relying on charity, and the Borrego Food Bank to get through these challenging times.  Dubbed the “she-cession” by experts for the disproportionate impact the pandemic-led recession has had on housing, unemployment and childcare for working women. Women working heads of households, earning hourly wages have been the hardest hit by closures of restaurants, hotels, and other low paying jobs.  Last May, unemployment rates for women were up 1,368 percent over the previous year, making up 80 percent of all workers who have been dropped from the workforce.

An example of a family that received Secret Santa gifts is headed by a single mother, who is not able to work.  She has no family nearby; lost her car temporarily; has three young children, including one that is a year old, and is pregnant with another child on the way.

Soroptimist Secret Santa teams collected donations, packaged and wrapped baskets, and delivered to 18 homes, who like this example, are the primary wage earners, and facing difficult pandemic-related financial situations.  The Secret Santa gifts were supplemented with generous donation from the Food Bank.

“We couldn’t believe how quickly people responded with $100 Secret Santa donations. It was just a two-week campaign. Even though it’s a less than normal Christmas for everyone, people realized that for some the holidays were going to be harder than usual. Just goes to show how folks in Borrego respond to neighbors in need. A special thanks to the organizations and businesses that contributed. We are very grateful for everyone’s generosity."
Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs
Judy Stewart
Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs President
Soroptimist Secret Santas
Soroptimist Secret Santa Gift Basket

The collection point, Ellen Fitzpatrick’s Graphics You Can Trust storefront, in The Mall, was filled with donated items for the gift baskets such as 30 children’s Spanish and English reading books from the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA). 

Additional business donations included: $50 Frugal Coyote gift certificates from the Ministers Association; the Palms at Indian Head gave $10- gift certificates; packages of fudge from the Fudge Factory; the 18 baskets and Saran wrap came from the Frugal Coyote; Borrego Outfitters provided Olive oil and Jelly.  The baskets contained gifts from Borregans, like Beth Hart, who donated Beanie Bag toys.

Gifts from Soroptimist members, and other individuals included art supplies, stuffed animals, baked cookies, children’s toys, socks, masks, soap, toothpaste, sanitizers, and other household items.

“It was like magic. People kept popping in with money and gifts and, to help. In the very best tradition of giving, the store was totally brimming with Christmas spirit and love.”
Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs
Ellen Fitzpatrick
Soroptimist Member/ Owner of Graphics You Can Trust

According to Fitzpatrick, a “show stopper” was the big box of food, collected and contributed by the Food Bank supporters. “We want to thank Anne and Jim Wermers for the space in The Mall to store and package food, the Fredericks family, and all the volunteers for inspiring this ongoing community resource.”

In addition to the Food Bank’s usual selection of canned goods, eggs, tortillas, beans, and milk, there was a special holiday surprise – a large turkey, or ham in each box delivered with the Soroptimist Secret Santa cash and gift baskets.

According to one Soroptimist Secret Santa, the best part of the contribution campaign was delivering to the homes; witnessing the excitement of the children seeing the gift baskets, and the tearful gratitude of many moms.

Borrego Springs Face Mask Project: We Got You Covered

Started in March, the Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs’ Mask Project has been ongoing, through the heat of summer and now into fall and winter. Borrego Springs’ masks have been sewn by volunteers in Borrego Springs, Palomar Hospital Volunteer Circle, and as far away as Illinois! Masks are continually gathered and packaged for distribution through our eight town locations.

Residents and visitors alike have welcomed our displays and helped us collect more than $3,000 over the span of the endeavor. This project has been another example of how Soroptimist Ladies take on a challenge and pull through for the girls and women in their community. The masks have helped thousands, and the volunteers who purchase, sew, advertise, and distribute these masks have expressed the rewarding feeling that involvement gives them.

Jean Brugger busy sewing masks for Borrego Springs

Jean Brugger stops by Graphics You Can Trust to sew for a few hours on occasion. She says she finds it relaxing. Being a quilter, Jean saves every scrap of fabric after she cuts her mask patterns! She recently found a few attractive masculine fabrics she will incorporate into her larger masks now. Now that the heat has finally subsided, we have visitors coming to town, and as popular as motorcycle clubs are, we figure making some larger sizes will help cover our guest-riders. Jean has also supplied quite a few child-sized masks for our Halloween Trunk-or-Treat event at The Mall, where each child chose their own free mask.

As to a quote from Brugger, “I’m only here for a few months while my husband works an assignment with ABSDP, so when I saw the call for volunteers to sew, I was delighted to do my small part to help keep Borrego safe! I’ve been coming here with him for over 25 years and Borrego Springs and the surrounding desert have a very special place in my heart.”

Pammy Sherill at Desert Pantry Grocery Store

Pammy Sherrill, who works at Desert Pantry Grocery Store, is thankful for the Soroptimist Mask Display. When the pandemic started, customers would sometimes enter the store, having forgotten to bring a mask. Having a counter display offering masks to the public for a small donation, was, and continues to be, a great help keeping staff and customers safe.

Annmarie Tidwell participated in the volunteer sewing effort this summer, borrowing the Soroptimist loaner sewing machine, donated by Soroptimist Anne Wermers. Annmarie created countless two-ply cotton medical-style masks for distribution through our store displays around Borrego Springs.

“It gave me a sense of purpose that I haven’t had since I retired. I felt like I was contributing once again. It felt wonderful,” said Tidwell.

Soroptimists are sincerely grateful to those who have pitched in to make this project a success!  We want to keep our beloved residents and visitors safe and are thankful to those who are donating to our mission of providing education scholarships and mentoring to girls and women.

Soroptimists Have You Covered

Borrego Springs soroptimists have you covered

Beginning April 6, a COVID-19 Fact Sheet was composed by Soroptimist Linda Stanley, and designed with local logos and contacts by Ellen Fitzpatrick, both Borrego Springs Soroptimist members. These fact sheets were distributed ahead of the Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force information was eventually dispersed to all Borrego Springs P.O. Boxes.

Distributed along with the Fact Sheet were bandanas, initially purchased in batches by more Borrego Soroptimists, Gloria Gustine and Judy Stewart, for making DIY masks with hair ties. Bandanas proved to be very popular. (Honestly, the men like them just to wear like bandits.)

The Mask Displays were immediately accepted by Center Market and Desert Pantry grocery stores, so customers could comply with California mask requirements. Following them, Village Liquors & Market, Calico’s, Jilberto’s, Community Valley Bank, Red Ocotillo and Carlee’s all accepted a counter display for our Mask Project, and began collecting donations of $1 each. Customers were both enthusiastic and generous. Within two weeks, our public service project became a profitable ‘business’. At that time the mask committee could hardly keep the mask displays filled.

Local Borrego businesses, attempting to remain open during the quarantine, were critical to holding the line on social distancing and mask wearing. It’s fair to say that not all Californians were ready, able, or happy to suddenly be required to wear a mask.  Even today, three months later, masks are currently required on staff but “suggested” for customers in other part of California. The fact that Borrego businesses chose to make masks mandatory and recognize the particular risks that a tourist town faces is a credit to their own personal integrity and concern for the safety of their staff.

The Borrego Springs Soroptimists are grateful to be able to offer shoppers a mask should they not have one. Residents and visitors shopping here have supported the project wholeheartedly and continue to contribute generously and purchase masks at all the locations.

April 14, we received a donation of sewn medical masks from the Palomar Hospital Volunteer Sewers. We received 150 masks, followed by another 280 masks two weeks later. They disappeared overnight from our displays, as customers seemed to be buying multiples of the colorful, washable masks! Our distribution expanded out to West Shores at the Salton Sea, with donations of masks to Ocotillo Wells’ students in the school lunch program. BCHF Cottages and the Food Bank also received our masks free of charge.

Demand for masks Outstrips Supplies

Meanwhile, the supply could not keep up with demand, and bandanas became impossible to get. Our ‘business’ got creative and began cutting TEE shirts into rectangles with ear slots, which are amazingly comfortable! And, in fact, look nice with screen-printed logos. That led to Wild Heart Company Screenprinting’s Cristina Mitchell, who offered to print various business logos on the TEE masks, with the assistance of Graphics You Can Trust.

Frugal Coyote and the American Legion’s Bargain Barn contributed batches of used TEES and the project grew again. This opened up the opportunity for businesses to sponsor a TEE Mask, at $50 for 50 masks, and the Soroptimists receive the $1 donation when the masks are purchased. So far, more than 200 TEE Masks have been printed and distributed, with new orders now coming in from local mask sponsors.

On May 23, 500 more medical masks from Palomar came to Borrego. Here we are in June and it looks like mask requirements will continue through summer, so we will keep up the cutting, printing and bagging three types of masks for the shopping community.

the Latest Update

As of May 20, the Mask Project has brought in more than $1300 in donations, and production presses on.

Please donate! Support Women Helping Women.

Wear a mask. And be safe out there!