Second annual Italian Nights Spaghetti Dinner
When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday
Where: Sonora Elks Lodge, at 100 Elk Drive
Cost: $20 a ticket, available at the door
What: Fundraiser for Give Someone a Chance, a nonprofit organization that provides support for homeless people in Tuolumne County. Live music by the Black Irish Band. Silent auction including items donated by local businesses.
For more information, call (209) 206-3549.
Many websites that offer tips for nailing a job interview say basic hygiene is key to making a good first impression, so how is someone without a home or place to shower supposed to get a fair opportunity?
That’s why retired Jamestown couple Hazel and Dick Mitchell, founders of Give Someone a Chance, are working to convert an old bus donated to them by Tuolumne County into mobile showers with two stalls that will serve the area’s homeless population.
“When you go in for a job interview, you have to look a certain way, behave a certain way and be clean, of course,” said Hazel Mitchell, the nonprofit organization’s CEO. “If they walk in the way they look out in the woods, there’s no way that someone’s going to pay attention to them.”
Through the organization, the couple has helped dozens of the county’s homeless get off the streets and indoors over the past several years. They estimate there are at least about 600 homeless people in the county, with the majority being in and around the City of Sonora.
In 2015, the couple went to the Mother Lode Fair Board of Directors to see if they could work out a deal where they could transport homeless people to the livestock showers at the fairgrounds a few days a week.
The board at the time shot down the proposal out of concern that it would conflict with the goal of making the RV park at the fairgrounds a more attractive place to stay, so now the couple is taking matters into their own hands.
“There’s only about two or three locations in the county with fixed showers (that homeless people can use)”, said Dick Mitchell. “The problem is that it becomes a real challenge for them if they don’t have money to ride the bus, so they either don’t take showers or wash up in the creek during the summertime.”
Their plan is to establish several locations throughout the county where they could set up the bus several days throughout the week and use their five-passenger van to transport people for showers.
Inspired by a similar operation in Modesto, those who used the showers would also get a free pair of socks and underwear.
The Mitchells say they are close to reaching their $30,000 funding goal convert the bus, but they will need sustained funding for the costs of ongoing operations.
They will host a second annual fundraiser Saturday at the Elks Lodge in Sonora, with proceeds going toward the shower bus. Last year’s event drew about 221 people.
“Depending on the number of people that are going to be working on it, we’re hoping and praying it will be a reality in about eight months,” Hazel Mitchell said.
They are getting advice on their plans from Dean Dodd, founder of the Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle in Modesto, a branch of the Church in the Park outdoor ministry.
Dodd converted an old dial-a-ride bus into two mobile shower stalls.
The church began providing the service at three locations throughout Modesto three days a week in August. Dodd estimated they provide hot showers to about 35 to 50 people a day, for a total of about 3,700 showers since launching last year.
Dodd said they just got a second bus at auction that will be converted as well.
“We want to help them just improve their day a little bit, but the big picture is we want them to start getting on their feet, looking for open doors and applying for jobs,” Dodd said. “We’re hoping to see other municipalities pick up this vision and take off with it.”