By Judith Ashley
Beading The Odds is the inspiration of a friend of mine, Juanita Garnow. After retirement, Ms. Garnow made the decision to become a volunteer. She has always been a strong supporter of animals, having at least two dogs as pets at any one point in time.
Initially she volunteered with Project Pooch, a non-profit group that rescues abandoned and abused dogs and works with Oregon’s Juvenile Justice system. Young men at McClaren School for Boys apply for the opportunity to have a dog assigned to them. These young men are responsible for the care and training of their dog. Upon ‘graduation’, the dogs are adopted by vetted families. This program’s impact on young men has been profound. Less than 1% of the youth involved in Project Pooch have reoffended.
However, as awesome as Project Pooch is, that program isn’t what this post is about.
Through her volunteering with Project Pooch, Ms. Garnow learned there were youth at McClaren who self-identified as Native Americans. She offered to teach them beading techniques so they could connect at a different level to their heritage.
That’s how Beading The Odds came into being. Ms. Garnow single-handedly has raised money to purchase supplies, garnered donations of beads and equipment, invited other beaders to join her on Sundays when she meets with these young men and teaches and encourages and supports them in their work. She also takes their finished projects and sets up tables at various functions in order to sell the necklaces, bracelets and earrings the youth create.
Recently, Ms. Garnow had a table at The Gathering of the Guilds, a large event where members of various craft guilds sell their wares. Although there were a couple of other people who helped out, for the most part it was Ms. Garnow selling the items. Over the weekend of The Gathering of the Guilds, Ms. Garnow sold just over $1,000.00. These funds go directly into accounts the youth have at McClaren. All of Ms. Garnow’s time, effort, energy, enthusiasm and encouragement are donated.
While selling at The Gathering of the Guilds, a woman from Washington state stopped by. She was excited about what Ms. Garnow was doing and said she wanted to see if she could get this type of program started in her state.
What I’m inspires me is hearing the stories of the changes these young men are making as they find someone who is committed to them learning a new skill, something that they can use to help support themselves when they are released or that they can use to make gifts for family members and friends.
Underneath it all, they know that Ms. Garnow is there because she cares about them as individual young people. She is a volunteer and receives no remuneration for her time.
Her payment is seeing "the guys" gain new skills, grow in confidence in using those skills, become thoughtful about how these skills can fit into their life after release. Sunday night or sometime on Monday we talk. I hear the exuberance in her voice as she tells me how her time teaching the art of beading to these young men fills her heart. The joy and happiness she feels infuses her words and wraps around me. When we part, I’m uplifted because I know that her work makes a huge difference in the lives of each of the 12 young men currently in Beading The Odds. I’m not surprised this is one of the most popular programs offered and that there is a waiting list.
If you are interested in learning more about Beading The Odds, donating material, or making a contribution, please contact me at JudithAshleyRomance@Gmail.com and I’ll forward your email to Ms. Garnow.