Travels in the American Southwest

Day 2-The Shade Tree

Prior to my arrival in Las Vegas, I contacted Dave Berman to obtain further info on The Shade Tree, a shelter for Women and Children. Readers may recall the small brouhaha regarding the sale of calendars. Well, the Shade Tree is the recipient of the calendars proceeds. Dave put me in touch with the Community Resources Coordinator at Shade Tree.

Quite frankly, places like the Shade Tree make you want to get down on your knees and thank whatever supreme being/galactic force you believe in for all that you've got. Located in a squat 1,800 square foot building, the Shade Tree provides shelter for 85 women and children (but you can bet the rent that the 85 grow by at least one half during the extremes of summer and winter).

The Sleeping Room of the Shade Tree contains bunk beds in which a mother and her child will share one bed. Another mother and child (or perhaps two children) will occupy the upper bed. That's right, two to a bed/four to a bunk bed. I can't say how many bunk beds there were, but it seemed that almost half of the first floor is for sleeping. During the day, the sleeping quarters are locked. No one lounges in bed during the day at the Shade Tree. Small lockers are available for those who get a bed. (And I do mean small!)

The Day Room was a bustle of activity. It was clean, bright and as orderly as it could be. Children were reading books, playing games and "helping" one of the center's volunteers serve soup. The television sat against the! Apparently, it is used for educational purposes (Sesame Street) and the occasional video geared to the younger ones. No talk shows. No soaps. No kidding.

The Laundry Room's washers and dryers were chugging away. One of the residents mentioned that she was on her way to a job interview. She felt that things were looking promising. Well dressed, groomed and a million dollar smile, I knew she'd make a good impression.

The two Shower Rooms were really only one shower room as plumbing woes continue to plague the Shade Tree and force a schedule for showers. A logistical nightmare is solved with a schedule showing military precision, as there are a lot of bodies to keep clean!

Like any charity, the Shade Tree survives on donations. Down in the building's basement, bags of clothing are opened, sorted, washed and mended (if necessary) and made available to the shelter's residents. As you might imagine, a precious commodity is diapers and associated items (wipes, powder, etc.). While I was visiting, I met the "donation volunteer" who does the lion's share of sorting, mending and cleaning. All by herself down in the "dungeon". Bully for her!

I have, intentionally, not mentioned anyone's name nor the Shade Tree's location. The first, because I didn't ask their permission and the second...well, the women are there for a number of reasons, none pleasant. Their safety is and should be a prime concern.

If you're looking for a worthy cause, I recommend the Shade Tree. PO Box 669, Las Vegas, NV 89125. My guide confided to me that the Shade Tree is looking to purchase/obtain a piece of property where they hope to construct a more useable structure than the one they currently inhabit. Hell, they've got my support.

And so ends my Tuesday morning.

More Information
Las Vegas Review Journal Article on Share Tree
Deja Archive on posts related to Shade Tree

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