Much Gratitude to all who contributed to our COVID Relief food & supply donations. We asked, you answered. In Orange County, our working poor struggle daily for basic necessities. When the pandemic hit, it got much worse, on a grand scale.
Thousands of families found themselves looking at the real possibility of NO way to provide for their children. That’s when your generous dollars were converted into food, diapers, home staples and other necessities.
Our volunteers delivered over 120 bags/boxes of groceries, 12 diaper boxes & 25 stuffed animals….not bad for our pint-sized charity! Here are some pics of our Treehouse First Responders!
Much gratitude to our Treehouse family and friends!
The first time I met Natalie, in late 2000, she was just a little dot of a girl with big, solemn brown eyes. A group of Tony’s Treehouse volunteers had gathered outside the home she shared with her mother and 5 siblings. Our intention that weekend was to help the family spruce up their home. The goal was to reach out and tame some of the chaos that had settled in as a function of depression. My first thought upon arrival was “poor kids, they must think we’re some invading army of do-gooders”.
Becky calmly gave each of us the jobs she felt we were best suited for. Not an easy task when your volunteer staff has an age range from little kids to seniors! I remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable with the idea of going through someone’s home, and needed more than a nudge or two from Becky before I was ready to settle into a steady “work” mode. At that time I was still pretty cynical about this whole “helping people” thing. I didn’t believe back then that lending a helping hand would result long term change. I did the work simply because I love my friend Becky, and she said to do it.
We all worked hard that weekend, the volunteers and this family of 5 were pulled together with a common goal. What seemed initially to be a huge task was whittled away, and fatigue soothed with laughter and liberal amounts of pizza. By the time we finished Natalie and her siblings were comfortable with us being there and their quietness dissolved into play and giggles. They certainly seemed to enjoy the ‘new’ look of the home, which was wonderful to see. I felt like much less of an invader, and began to enjoy this “helping” thing. Of course, still a confirmed cynic, I thought the “new look” of the place wouldn’t last and I told Becky it was a temporary fix. Wise woman that she is, she proved me wrong.
She kept this family within the Treehouse “fold”, and continued to do her unconditional love magic.
When Sue partnered with Becky and Tony’s Treehouse, she added her own exuberant influence and encouragement. Becky and Sue kept things going, and graciously met whatever needs they could as they presented themselves. They were also able to “make it happen”, no matter if money was low, donations scant, all while juggling busy work schedules in addition to running a Non-Profit. Many times it was just about being present and being that “rock” of stability that children need when their world at home is in chaos.
Natalie and her siblings were welcome to stop by Becky and Sue’s after school to “hang out”, and enjoy words of encouragement. It was wonderful to see how true caring, friendship, a school backpack, and some snacks could affect the lives of the kids in such a positive way.
Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Natalie. She is now an adult, a student, married, with her own family. She is an articulate, intelligent young woman, and it was through her that I learned the importance of those seemly small acts of love & influence.
Natalie vividly recalls that first “tidy up” day. She said she had a range of emotions, embarrassment, excitement, hope, and happiness. What I learned was that she and her siblings were so happy with their home after the volunteers left that they resolved to maintain it, all by themselves if need be. Although they were young, they teamed up to clean, do laundry, and chores. Sometimes they even skipped school tostay home and clean the house.
Natalie told me about how special it was to be able to pop over to Becky & Sue’s for dill pickles and Pepsi after school. Of feeling like their house was something of a sanctuary. A slice of the calm, orderly home environment that she craved. She told me that their support was instrumental in getting her through those rough high school years when peer pressure can be so torturous. She told me their caring attention influenced her in wonderfully positive ways.
As a young married woman, Natalie lived for a time in an area of high density housing where families were often affected by social, emotional and economic struggles. It was there she met children facing the same type of challenges she dealt with growing up. She did not shy away from those kids. She embraced their needs, offering them sandwiches, caring attention and the sanctuary of her home. Although she has moved away from the area now, and has children of her own, she still keeps in touch with those kids, checking in with them and some of their parents too. She has encouraged them, influenced them and served her community in an invaluable way.
What Becky & Sue, and Tony’s Treehouse did for Natalie as she was growing up, and the way Natalie then continued to be a positive light in the world, is the reason we roll up our sleeves and do what we do. It is why we ask for donations, contributions, and volunteer hours. It is the reason every dollar gathered makes a difference in both a person’s momentary need, but less obviously, and much more importantly, in their life’s journey. I can honestly see, in just this one lovely young woman, why we need to toss those pebbles of love and care into the pond. They don’t just sink to the bottom unheeded, they continue to cast ripples outward, wide enough to embrace and influence others in a positive way. To me this is more than enough ‘interest’ on a dollar spent, it is a loving investment in the future!
Jorge, Alessandro,Becky 2017 Portland Rose Garden
Sue, Leo, Becky, Natalie 2018
2019 Visit to Portland with Natalie, Becky, Alessandro, Leo and Jorge
A note from Becky:
A SPECIAL THANKS to Doug and Margie Burt of Mission Viejo, for introducing Natalie and her family to Tony’s Treehouse. Doug and Margie (pictured below) built a loving foundation with this entire family and I’m so very grateful you asked me to be a part of the Joy! Yes, it takes a Village, and what a beautiful Village it is! Hugs to the entire Burt Family for their 19 years of Treehouse support!
Please visit again in May 2019 for our Featured Mother’s Day article about one of our Treehouse success stories. We’ll be highlighting Natalie Azcarate O’Campo and family… we originally met little Natalie and her siblings in 2001, and she was about 9 years old Now age 26 she is raising her 2 little boys in Portland OR. She’ll be sharing how the Treehouse assisted herself and siblings in her younger years. Natalie is a perfect example of how Tony’s Treehouse continues to nurture generational relationships with many of the individuals we’ve helped over our 19 years of service.
Natalie with husband Jorge and their son, Alessandro, 2017
Many have asked, “how do you locate the families you help?” Answer : Tony’s Treehouse partner’s with local Orange County Agencies and Non Profit groups who identify families with the greatest need.
“Share Our Selves” of Orange County, is one such organization who lovingly provides comprehensive safety net services to the homeless and low-income population of Orange County, CA, since it’s inception in 1970.
To all who participated, on every level, THANK YOU so very much for your time, effort and dollars to give our Adopted families an abundant Holiday. Nothing happens without volunteers!
L to R : Liz Courselle, Amy Tomalas, Ryan Tomalas, Lynn Tomalas, Sue Bottassi, Roger Tomalas, Adam Tomalas
Photo, LA Times 12.19.2018
Sue Bottassi, Ryan and Amy Tomalas at Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa Volunteer event for “Share OurSelves”
Have fun working ‘hands on’ with your family or co-workers…or donate to the cause to make a difference in our County.
This season celebrates Tony’s Treehouse 18th Annual Holiday Adopt Program. We are partnering with SOS (Share Our Selves) of Orange County which is a full-service program providing year-round care and assistance to families in crisis.
How It Works: Volunteers identify needy households of our community, prepare their personal packets, family story and wish lists… you are provided all their information, and shop, wrap and deliver to the Orange County Fairgrounds (we can assist with drop off as well).
Let’s provide these deserving souls a beautiful Holiday Season. Thanks for your support!
Roger Tomalas Family, Becky, Sue, Carmen at SOS Gift Delivery site
Below is our initial story and plead for assistance for this family. We are still taking donations, and up to date we’ve collected $1715 for them, thanks to generous friends and kind hearted strangers! WE ARE SMALL BUT MIGHTY! Thanks to all who’ve helped with dollars and prayers. November 29, 2018
Nov 11, 2018 …. Our California Wildfires have destroyed yet another family home of dear Treehouse supporters. In the little Northern CA town of Paradise, it was last night the Lindsay family discovered, at KOA base camp, that their home, camper trailer and car were all lost in the fires. Steve and Teri Lindsay, along with their 3 children, had just moved into the home and in process of securing insurance (which is a difficult task now in Nor Cal fire zones). The policy was not yet in effect – THEY HAVE NO INSURANCE COVERAGE to pay for their temp living arrangements, personal items or to rebuild what they have lost.
What makes this even more devastating are the losses suffered with their disabled daughter – Megan’s life depends on her medical supplies and Cpac machine and has mobility only with her electric wheel chair. Thank goodness Megan’s sweet service dog, Giata, survived & is able to comfort her during this time.
For over 13 years, the Lindsay’s have come to the aid of Tony’s Treehouse, helping with fundraisers, using Megan’s wheelchair van to transport donations, giving time and money to help our cause. Let’s do what we can to show them that they are not alone, people care and will answer our call for help in the face of tragedy. ANY size donation will help.
Tax deductible contributions can be made through this website or you can mail a check to the address below, please reference the Lindsay Family Fund. Time is of the essence. The family and I are grateful for your support.
This month, we are rallying support for Laguna’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness, and our Food Drive is in full swing to support community efforts.
Our volunteers have already dropped off 5 large boxes full with a wide variety of Oatmeal, granola bars, pancake mix, canned items, rice and many more non perishable goodies…. Read below about the Pantry, It’s Mission & It’s Need ~
Anne Belyea, Executive Director with Pantry Volunteers
A little bit about our Local Food Pantry :
This amazing group of volunteers are dedicated to servicing lower income individuals in nearby towns, not just Laguna Beach. Every shopper is different…some are seniors getting by on social security. Some are hampered in their earning power by a physical or mental disability, others are sidelined from working by an injury. Many are working full-time at minimum-wage jobs but simply cannot afford to pay all their bills and put food on the table. Their mission is to collect and distribute food to people in need. They offer free, fresh groceries five mornings a week to anyone who signs in at our front desk to shop in our retail-style setting. Shoppers are invited to choose from a selection of the same products they would find at local supermarkets. All products are fresh and almost always in their original packaging. Perishable foods are refrigerated or frozen in accordance with industry standards.
Here are their Values:
Safety is our first priority in all we do, from the food we provide to the environment we share.
We strive to provide quality food to the community in a friendly, supportive setting.
In all our actions, we endeavor to serve one another and our community, creating enjoyable, helpful experiences for shoppers and volunteers.
We champion the worth and dignity of all people and treat everyone as valued members of the community.
Below is a list of their most needed items:
Tuna, Macaroni and Cheese, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Pasta and Pasta Sauce,
Rice and Beans and Cereal
A few drop off locations:
*US Bank, 310 Glenneyre Street, Laguna Beach, CA
*The Girl Scout House, 190 High Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
*Private residence in Laguna Hills (contact us for more details)
*Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Laguna Canyon and Blue Bird Park
Thank you for your support and please contact us, or the Laguna Food Pantry with any questions or concerns.
THANK YOU to all donors and everyone who coordinated RJ’s 2018 summer fun, with a special Shout Out to Susan Bottassi & Barbara McMurray. A BIG thank you to Pam Estes, Andrea Randle, Addie McHale, Liz Their & Hans Laroche for facilitating and sponsoring RJ’s week at the Laguna Canyon Branch location.
Upon asking RJ his favorite part of day camp… he replied, “My favorite part was playing outside and meeting new friends. My favorite day was ‘Wheels Day’ when I could bring my bike. I want to go to the Club EVERY day!”
Boys & Girls Club gave him many carefree days this season, having exciting adventures and playing with new friends. Just look at the pictures and you can see the joy written all over his face.
Sue, Becky and RJ with Branch Director Hans Laroche
Razor Day at the Club
Laguna Branch Boys & Girls Club Staff with RJ and Barbara McMurray who help facilitate RJ’s week at the Canyon Branch
Our grassroots charity is working to raise $525 for RJ’s Summer Day Camp. We’re offering a package of 8 donated tickets to the Pageant of the Masters show on July 30, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. Seats are together in the upper Directors Tier, Side BB 64 – 78 at the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach. We are seeking a generous individual, corporation, or organization to buy all 8 tickets for $400. See pics below ~
100% of this purchase will to go toward funding RJ’s Summer Day Camp fees at Harbor Cities Boys & Girls Club ($525 for 7 weeks). He will be able to attend as many weeks as we can pay for, so any additional donations are welcome.
A little about RJ…
At age 8, RJ is a bright, artistic, loving child, the oldest of his family’s three boys. As the eldest and a responsible little soul, he often assumes the role of “helper” with his two little brothers, ages 1 and 3. His family recently moved from Compton to more family-friendly housing in the Long Beach area. Dad works full time at LAX as a baggage handler. Mom earns money by styling hair. They’ve been together nearly 10 years and have faced their share of heartaches. Four years ago, their second child, three-month-old Brycen, died suddenly from SIDS. Our Treehouse family pulled resources together and collected funds to pay for little Brycen’s grave marker. It’s been a difficult path for them, but the family pulled together through the tragedy and hardship.
Tony’s Treehouse would love to help RJ have a fun-filled summer and send him to camp – he’s never been! Can you help us give RJ a slice of carefree summertime in the wholesome Boys & Girls Club atmosphere where he can play outdoors, make new friends, and connect with caring adults and mentors. Join the Treehouse to make a difference, one child at a time.
Another marvelous Season of Giving ~ brought to you by a loving community who rallied to provide dozens of gifts, all shapes and sizes to over 22 adults and children. Below are just a few highlights of the wrapping, delivering, and celebration of an outstanding Holiday Event for Tony’s Treehouse. Much gratitude to our donors who contributed time, energy and funds. A special Shout Out to Shaena Stabler and Team StuNewsLaguna, who continue to publish articles supporting local charities, raising awareness and Spreading the Love! MANY THANKS TO ALL who participated this year!
Sue, Carmen and Becky on Delivery Day
Roger Tomalas Family, Becky, Sue, Carmen at SOS Gift Delivery site
Kate Hanson of Trippy Hippy, donating NEON shoes to the Program
“Master Wrapper” Sue
Sue, Carmen & Diggity Dog ready to give away a new bike
Dozens of NEON shoes ready to wrap up
Carmen with her gifts to deliver
Kate Hanson and Becky
Tomalas Law Firm : Roger & Lynn with Ryan & Amy Tomalas
Miles of Smiles Chrismas Day
Liz playing Santa
Lovin the NEON shoes
Becky and Jude with his NEONS
Anna & Dale Mudd, Elianna, Becky and Danny Martinez