Major donors and contributors to Give Someone a Chance mobile showers for the homeless include: Orchard Supply Hardware, Lowes, Sonora Lumber, Slakey Brothers, Central Heat and Air, Ric Bacon Customs and Collisions, AEG Sign Shop, JS West, Wayne Waters Plumbing, Valley Bedliner, Doherty Tires, Tuolumne County Transportation Council, David and Leslie Fichter, Roger and Bonnet Lindahn, Renee Hempler, Laurie Chesney and Dan Perez, Tuolumne County Behavioral Health, Jim and Carol Caywood, Earl Randall, Sonora Elks Lodge, David Lambert Community Drop-In Center, Dick and Hazel Mitchell, Sierra Bible Church, New Hope Church, Christian Heights Church, St. Matthew Lutheran Church, St. James Episcopal Church, Discover Life Seventh Day Adventist Church, and United Methodist Church, and the Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California.

While some merely talk about the issue of homelessness, others are taking action to improve the lives of people who are unsheltered.

Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt emphasized that point during a speech he gave Wednesday morning in reference to a newly minted shower bus for the homeless that was completed entirely by the local nonprofit organization Give Someone a Chance.

“We all talk about it ... That’s all we do is we talk. We talk and we talk and nothing happens,” Hanvelt said. “Give Someone a Chance isn’t talking. This is real tangible results of doing something.”

Hanvelt was speaking at Sierra Bible Church’s commons area in East Sonora for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the bus after several years of work by volunteers of Give Someone a Chance, which provides aid to the homeless in the county.

Hanvelt called the bus “the only tangible thing for the homeless” that he’s seen in the county besides services provided by some other groups and agencies.

Several people who gave speeches at Wednesday’s event, including Hanvelt, referenced a survey conducted by Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency in late September that found 711 people in the county who were homeless at the time.

Of the the total counted in the survey, 177 were under 18 years old, 22 were five or younger, and 22 others were 65 or older.

Give Someone a Chance was co-founded in 2010 by retired couple Hazel and Dick Mitchell, of Jamestown. The pair are part of a seven-member board of directors that also includes David Fichter, Craig Hempler, Donald Ronalter, Harold Mullins, and Dr. Larry Brunel.

Hazel Mitchell explained that the group originally tried to build a shelter area on land that she and her husband owned off Tuolumne Road, but they weren’t able to raise enough money to get the project off the ground.

The group shifted focus to converting an old bus, which was donated to them about three years ago by the Tuolumne County Transportation Council, into mobile showers with two stalls.

A design team consisting of Dick Mitchell, Ronalter, Hempler and Roger Lindahn met each week for three hours at a time to complete the engineering plans for the bus. All of the interior work was done on a voluntary basis by Lindahn, a general contractor who also volunteers to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

The late Jim Caywood documented the process of constructing the bus over the past year, and his photos were displayed on a poster board Tuesday.

Sonora Mayor Connie Williams, a former member of the nonprofit’s board of directors, also spoke at Wednesday’s event. Representatives for U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, and State Senator Tom Berryhill were invited to speak at the event but did not attend.

Hazel Mitchell highlighted a number of individuals, businesses and organizations who contributed in some way to the completion of the bus (see box for full list). She also applauded the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and Sonora Police Department for taking a different approach to the homeless population.

“I have never seen a more progressive group than our sheriff’s department and police department,” she said. “When they see a homeless person and they’re not being obtrusive or anything like that, now they say ‘How can I help you?’ “

Hazel Mitchell also introduced the crowd of 50-plus people to Benjamin Barnow, a U.S. Army veteran, and his fiancée, Glenda LaBonty, who are both homeless and camp in the woods off Stockton Road.

The couple survives off money they make doing odd jobs for the Mitchells and others. They also recently led an effort to clean up the homeless camps that netted several tons of garbage.

Last week, Give Someone a Chance received its largest single donation ever from the Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California of more than $22,000 to help pay for the ongoing operation of the bus.

The group estimated it will need at least $85,000 to operate the bus in the first year and up to about $110,000 per year at full staffing with two paid employees. They plan to give between 5,500 and 6,500 showers per year at pre-approved locations in Jamestown, Tuolumne and Sonora.

Each person who takes a shower will receive a bag with fresh pairs of underwear, socks and hygiene products, and the group is accepting donations of those items. They are also looking for more volunteers to join their team and fill various roles, such as marketing, grant-writing, fundraising and case management.

Hazel Mitchell said they hope to start giving the first showers after the group’s annual fundraiser on May 5 at the Sonora Elks Lodge.

The fundraiser, called “Italian Nights,” will feature a spaghetti dinner, live auction, raffle, and music by the Rusty Rockers, with all the proceeds going to the bus.

Those who attend the event will be eligible a door prize of a 50-inch flat screen television. Tickets to the event are $30 each and available via PayPal at www.gsactc.org , or by calling (209) 588-8377.


Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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