The number of folks showering with us has shot up during this COVID epidemic. All of our three current sites have seen an increasing number of guests since we restarted our shower program in June. Below are some of our shower totals June through August.
Unitarian Universalist Church — 184 showers — (June through August)
SLO Library — 105 showers — (July and August)
Oceano — 50 showers — (August)
All of our cleaners wear full PPE, while guests and volunteers wear a mask and observe social distancing.
We’ve added some products that we believe are important for our guests during this epidemic: our intake volunteers hand out 2oz bottles of hand sanitizer and a package of biodegradable outdoor wipes as well as a mask to our guests. This week we’ve also started offering white T-shirts to those guests in need of one.
All of the events we had planned for 2020 — the parades, the Veteran’s Stand Down — have been canceled. We continue to give talks by Zoom to local clubs and organizations. We are still supported and encouraged by our local churches, the Community Foundation, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and the United Way.
The volunteers who are working at our sites have done incredible work. The cleaners have it down to a science, intake is welcoming and terrific at crowd control, we’ve welcomed new drivers, and our site supervisor is back from foot surgery. We have so much to be proud and grateful for!
We fully recognize that not everyone is able to help at the showers during this time and we look forward to the time when we can all be back together again.
We’re Heading Back to Peoples Kitchen!
Starting Thursday, October 8th, STP will once more be providing showers at People’s Kitchen!
We are very excited to restart our shower operations at our very first shower site, 946 Rockaway Ave, Grover Beach, the home of South County People’s Kitchen. STP will schedule our shower operations there every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Board Welcomes New Member Rick Grether
If you know Rick Grether, two things are abundantly apparent: his love for his family and his commitment to serve his community. For many years, Rick has served as a Boy Scout leader, a soccer and baseball coach, a 4-H mentor, a Sierra Service Project leader, and a guitar-playing music leader at his church. Rick now serves as head of Operations for Shower the People. His first task was to help design and order our new shower trailer. Then, in September 2018, he flew to Topeka, Indiana to inspect the unit before it was shipped to California. Since delivery, Rick has made dozens of upgrades and modifications to the trailer: installed an inverter, added handles, hooks, shower rods and soap dispensers to make it safer and more user friendly, installed an awning to provide shade. Rick also drives the shower trailer, gets it ready for guests, and then helps clean the shower stalls after each use!
Rick is quick, though, to give kudos to the other volunteers he works with, and says he has learned so much working with them, especially now, having to take extra precautions dealing with Covid-19. He really enjoys doing the work, but says that what motivates him is providing hot showers to our unhoused guests. He says, “They are so appreciative of something most of us take for granted.” Rick always greets guests with “Good to see you!” and a smile. One of Rick’s great qualities is his sense of humor, and spending time with him just seems to brighten your day!
Rick grew up in Stockton, California, attending Linden High School. He then went on to graduate from San Diego State and, during that time, joined the California National Guard. Then Rick became a pilot and had a career that spanned forty years, flying for Hewlett-Packard Aviation, Boeing, and twenty-eight years flying around the world with United Airlines.
Rick’s wife, Claire, is the Volunteer Coordinator for Shower the People; they have four children and three grandchildren (two of them pictured above with Rick). Rick loves to spend time with his family and is frustrated by not being able to be with them due to Covid-19. Fortunately, he is planning a camping trip with some of his family in the near future.
In his spare time, Rick plays guitar and sings in a band. He was in Boomerang Band for twelve years and for the past year and a half has been in a trio, “Change of Plans.” Lately, they’ve been relegated to literally playing in a garage!
Rick continues to be a mainstay for Shower the People, and believes that the strength of the organization is the dedication of its volunteers and its all-volunteer program. With supporters like Rick, STP will continue to grow and to provide a necessary, human service to our community.
With heartfelt regret Shower the People temporarily suspended shower service on March 12 due to the County’s order to self-isolate at home because of the imminent threat to our community from the COVID 19 virus.
Tuesday June 2nd was our reopening day! We are back to giving showers again!
On May 15 the County gave us the OK to restart our shower program and a team of STP volunteers pulled together and started to meet almost daily. They gathered the best information they could find on what needed to be changed and what materials were needed to restart our program. The number one goal for the team was to rework our operations so STP could assure the health and safety of our volunteers and our shower guests in this time of COVID 19.
By May 23rd the revised policies and procedures, the changes to the site lay out, the gathering of all the PPE was looking good on paper and was ready for testing. 20 of our STP volunteers attended two days of training, one group at the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) parking lot in San Luis and one group the following day at St Barnabas parking lot in Arroyo Grande. A lot was learned from from both trainings, changes were discussed and made and the first copy of our new procedures was laminated!
Our operations team has begun planning for restarting our program at all of our other sites. Each site will have its own look, but all of our sites will still be the welcoming, friendly, organized shower sites that they always have been. More news to come!
Shower the People SLO COVID-19 Protocols
Volunteer Aaron Navarro put together this video for us, discussing some of the changes we have made to keep our clients and volunteers safe.
Volunteer Spotlight: Garry Schmidt
Garry Schmidt is a retired teacher having spent most of his career in the Bakersfield area. He has spent many years teaching in overseas schools that provided education for Christian Missionary children and other expats. He has worked as a teacher in the Congo, Kenya, Philippines, Lithuania, Egypt and Bethlehem, West Bank. Garry is married to a teacher who has been his partner in all things including these overseas endeavors.
Garry learned about Shower the People after hearing Claire Grether, STP Volunteer Coordinator, speak at a small men’s group at his church. He has met many wonderful people who worked at Shower the People who have introduced him to other volunteer opportunities with the homeless population, such as Safe Parking, Warming Center and People’s Kitchen. He said, “Shower the People has been a big doorway for me.”
Garry stated, “Being around the homeless citizens of our community and with those who help provide showers has given me a new understanding of the needs that exist for those without permanent housing.”
Garry has been working weekly as a shower cleaner since 2019. He has been able to witness the transformative power of a shower for those in need. He said when there is a need, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
Thank you, Garry, for your work on behalf of those we serve.
Shower the People wants to thank the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital for their generous help with our PPE and their assistance as we formed best practices to prevent infection by the COVID 19 virus.
Shower the People would not have been able to restart our shower program without the generous donation from the Community Foundation’s Disaster Support Fund. Their support was timely and needed at this time economic uncertainty.
April 2020 CoViD-19 Safe at Home Edition
Regretfully, Shower the People has temporarily suspended our shower operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Here is some of the fabulous ongoing work of some of our partners and friends during this time:
On April 21, Lava Mae is sending STP some hygiene kits for us to distribute. They also have come up with a hand washing station idea that we can implement in the coming weeks.
Five Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC) staff are working remotely (mostly). The main number is still being answered: (805) 574‒1638. People who receive mail at 5CHC can pick it up between 1:00-2:00 pm each day (Monday–Friday).The 5CHC Warming Center is open as needed. Ongoing is their work with the County to develop support for those who are homeless and who are being affected by CoViD-19.
South County People’s Kitchen continues to provide a large take-out lunch seven days a week to all who are in need.
Bombas Socks is going ahead and sending STP a shipment of socks. Bombas has been a generous and consistent supporter of our mobile shower program.
From January through March, 2020, Shower the People SLO offered free showers to 581 guests.
We have handed out 638 towels, 531 washcloths, and 504 pairs of socks, and 239 pairs of boxers!
Happy Birthday, STP Van!
We have had our van now for one full year! Since April 2019 we have put just under 3,000 miles on it! Thank you to the Latter Day Saints for their donation that allowed us to buy our own van.
We’ll be back on the road and giving showers ASAP!
Volunteers’ Safe at Home Adventures
Many of our volunteers usually spend several hours each week volunteering for Shower the People and are finding themselves with a lot of free time. Although they can no longer serve at the showers, some of our volunteers never take no for an answer, so here are some of our helpers and what they are doing. Rick Grether has been working on maintenance and repair for the shower trailer. He repaired some damage on the top, added a new switch to the electrical panel to make it more complicated (I’m sure there must have been another reason too…), and lowered the floor drains so they would work (excellent idea for the drains to actually work!!) Thanks, Rick!!
David Gross is our Site Supervisor at the Unitarian Universalist Church and a regular volunteer at our SLO Library site.
David, seen below cleaning a bench in the pouring rain, reports, “I’ve been spending some of my sequestration time helping the Standard Ebooks project make free, quality ebook versions of public domain books. The latest one I’ve helped to release is Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations, which you can download for free here — it is meant to help us stay calm and collected when fears of death, illness, and grief loom over us. Seems like it could be useful in our current predicament. The next one on my list is the Discourses of Epictetus which is in a similar vein and has just been released here.”
Kalleen Corley is gathering necessary clothing, sleeping bags and shoes/socks for our homeless friends living in our community. She has been in touch with the State Parks Rangers inquiring about shower usage in the campgrounds for our homeless in need.
Kalleen has been working on editing the content of the website with volunteer, David Gross. She has been working on putting out a special edition of our newsletter which will include volunteer activities during sequester.
Making art: oil, watercolor and acrylic painting and sewing felt children’s books occupy a good amount of each day, as well.
Shower the People volunteers are always happy to visit your church, club or organization to talk about our shower program. If you would like, we can bring our shower trailer along for a “show and tell”. Contact: email@example.com
Shower the People SLO is looking forward to seeing you all as soon as possible!!
March 2020 — News and Updates
Site Gratitude Edition
Without our partners in the community who allow us to use their space and resources to offer showers to our clients, Shower the People SLO could not operate! A huge thanks to those who welcome everyone in our community with open arms and with a hand up!
Sue Andersen, our newly appointed STP Board member, is the President and CEO of Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital. She was appointed in July, 2018, and prior to that was a Service Area Chief Financial Officer for Dignity Health and Hospital CFO for Marian, French and hospitals in Southern California. She and her husband Steve live in Nipomo with their two grown children and their dog Max. They have lived on the Central Coast for the past 27 years.
Sue said, “The mission of our hospitals is to serve our communities and Shower the People fits right in with that. I was introduced to Gwen Watkins by a mutual friend who thought that I could be of help. At that time, STP was struggling to raise funds and didn’t have the shower unit yet.
It is so amazing to me to see the progress made in the last year and how far the organization has now gone with everyone’s help. Our hospitals are proud to be a small part of this through donations and helping with the towels.”
STP is pleased to have Sue join our Board of Directors. We look forward to working together to achieve our organizational goals. This collaboration is an important bridge to better the health and welfare of the guests we serve.
Since our first showers at the end of October 2018 through the end of May 2019, STP has given 1001 showers!
STP Volunteer BBQ
The couple pictured here have been guests of Shower the People since we opened our doors in November 2018. They arrive early and are always appreciative and grateful to be able to shower. They have been living in their car for the past eight months after moving here from Lake Isabella.
He told me he had a job at a local restaurant as a dishwasher within 24 hours after arriving in the Five Cities. He said they are living in their vehicle because they are saving their money to buy a small place or a piece of land and he would not be able to do that if he was paying rent.
Last week they stopped to talk to me as I was giving them toiletries prior to their shower time. They told me that he had been able to stay employed because he was able to shower regularly and stay clean, a requirement for his job.
She proudly said, “He has been promoted from dishwasher to busser to line cook at the restaurant.” She then added, “And I have been able to look clean and presentable enough to get a job with a local insurance company.” She gave me a hug and said, “This is because of the help you guys are providing us.”
They stopped by again this week and told me, “I just got promoted to Assistant Manager of that restaurant!” He then showed me the key to the restaurant, attached to his key ring. She beamed and gave him a quick kiss.
Shower The People has a new van!
In April, STP purchased a 2018 Chevrolet Express 3500 Van with the majority being funded by a generous gift from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations in Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach. The van now remains attached to the trailer and carries all the supplies and toiletries we need for several weeks at a time. All of our drivers love the new van!
Rick Grether brings knowledge and experience to his position of Operations Manager for Shower the People. He was instrumental in the spec and design of the Mobile Shower Unit.
Having worked as a driver for Shower of Hope, SLO, and studying the trailer design for Showers of Blessing, Santa Barbara, Rick said he had a pretty good idea of what was needed for our Shower the People mobile unit. He said, “It is huge that we have the three showers with working toilets and sinks.” Rick spends his time managing, doing servicing and maintenance and training others in the use of the shower unit.
Rick was born and raised just east of Stockton, California in 1946 and attended Linden High School, graduating in 1964. That summer he obtained a Private Pilot’s license, and continued building flight licenses from then on, including Instructor Ratings, which he used during his college years.
He started college at San Diego State in 1964, but his education was interrupted by the Vietnam War. Assuming he’d be drafted, he enlisted for a six year commitment with the National Guard, thus avoided a tour of duty over seas.
Graduating from San Diego State in 1970, he then partnered with another pilot friend starting Spirit of Palo Alto Aviation, a flight school and air charter service in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1979 he was hired as a pilot by United Airlines and worked there until retiring (age 60 required) in 2006. The following year, 2007, he was hired by Boeing as a B777 and B787 flight instructor, retiring again in 2015.
He and his wife Claire were married in 1976 and raised 4 children in San Luis Obispo, being involved in all the usual child activities; baseball, soccer, 4H, church mission trips, etc.
In September of 2017 he was introduced to Becky Jorgensen of Showers of Hope, who needed a driver with a large truck that could pull her mobile showers trailer. That lasted until February of 2018 when he met Gwen Watkins who wanted to start Shower The People. The rest is history.
Rick is very positive about his volunteer work for Shower the People, He said, “I see expansion in the future which may eventually mean the need for another trailer.”
Shower Stats for January and February
We had a total of 302 guests with 50 of them being new to our program. Approximately 40% of our guests have been women.
Shower the People has been visiting area churches for the past three months as a part of our Community Outreach efforts. The purpose of this outreach is to describe our mission and services to groups of people who might be interested in volunteering or donating to our program as well as to thank groups of people who have already donated or served our program.
On December 9, 2008, Rick Grether, Kalleen Corley and Gwen Watkins visited the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in San Luis Obispo. After a well-received presentation focusing on the history, mission and accomplishments of STP, the congregation was invited outside for a tour of our mobile shower unit. Many people expressed interest, asked questions and wanted to know how they could help. The congregation generously donated the days offering to the STP operational costs.
January 20, 2019, Gwen Watkins, Rick and Clair Grether, Kalleen Corley, Barbara Owens, Gary and Dory Petersen, and Bill Crewe attended the Nipomo
Presbyterian Church. Rick Grether and Kalleen Corley, presented a short powerpoint and Kalleen Corley, Barbara Owens, Gary and Dory Petersen, and Bill Crewe attended the Nipomo Presbyterian Church. Rick Grether and Kalleen Corley, presented a short powerpoint and presentation emphasizing our mission, history and volunteer opportunities. The congregation toured the mobile shower unit and had an opportunity to talk to STP Board and Advisory Board members. Nipomo Presbyterian Church has generously donated and continues to donate to the operational costs of STP.
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church invited STP to set up our mobile shower unit for tours following their February 17 morning services. Gwen Watkins, Kalleen Corley, Gary and Dory Petersen and Rick and Clair Grether attended the 8 and 10 am services and provided tours and information to the congregation afterward. St. Barnabas is a generous donor to our operational costs and many people expressed interest in helping STP.
Please contact us if your church or organization would be interested in a visit from our STP Community Outreach Program.