My Tribute to Joanie Smith

I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about someone very, very special that just passed away. One of my friends, Councilwoman Tita Smith, just lost her mom, Joanie. As is life, there comes the day that we lose those we love. But what was so very special about Joanie Smith, who is pictured above? She lived and died believing in one of the most important things in life "giving back"! She was the very special person that began "My Sister Joanie's Purse Project". As many of our customers know, he have been collecting purses and toiletries for years for this project that Joanie started years ago, and now the Orange YWCA's is continuing the project. Something so simple as giving women in shelters diaper bags and purses filled with the stuff that you may carry in your own purse. Just yesterday, a customer came into Country Roads with a bag full of purses and another bag filled with goodies for those purses! Below is a little story I wrote almost two years ago about Joanie Smith. . .

It's Easy to Give Back
A few years ago, and I don’t remember the exact circumstances, I came across this awesome, little project that the Orange YWCA had been doing for several years. It was called, “My Sister Joanie’s Purse Project”. It was originally started by my favorite Councilwoman, Tita Smith’s mom, Joan Hoefs Smith. Basically, the concept is to collect purses that are “gently used” and fill them with stuff like personal hygiene products, or maybe a hankie or nail polish. These purses were and are distributed throughout the shelters in Orange County throughout the year, focusing mainly on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas. Since Christmas, this project has collected over 500 purses and put smiles on many grateful women’s faces!

As I started to write this article, I realized I didn’t know as much about My Sister Joanie’s Purse Project as I thought I did, and I wanted to learn more. So, as I seem to do a lot lately when I need help, I once again turned to Councilwoman Tita for more background on this wonderful project. Joan Hoefs Smith came to Orange in the 1920’s, went to West Orange School and then to Orange Union High School. That is when she learned not only about our Native Americans history, but also sadly learned about the poverty and deplorable conditions they lived in. Deeply concerned about this, Joan took it upon herself to make it her own personal charity to “give back”, to make a difference in the little Indian kids lives that were subjected to living in such poverty on these reservations. Joanie decided she would start collecting dolls at garage sales, wash ‘em up, refurbish them, re-do their hair and outfit each one of these gently loved dolls and box them up with a blanket and send them to the Indian reservations for Christmas gifts.

About fifty years ago, there a fellow named Danny Davey. And like Joanie, he too had the desire to make a difference in others lives. Danny was a UPS driver, but he had a heartfelt desire and passion to provide goods and gifts to our Native Americans. Thus, the Thunderbird Foundation was established. It all began that very first Christmas, when Danny decided to play Santa to all these little kids on the reservation. He loaded up a UPS truck with the dolls, gifts one Christmas and drove it to Arizona. The rest is pretty much history as his efforts grew and grew until there were many, many trucks following him to many of the Indian families every Christmas!

As this project grew and grew, somewhere along the way, Danny’s mom died. She left behind a number of handbags, personal belongings and more. Danny, being a giving man, filled those handbags with his mom’s things and trucked them right on over to the Indian women. These women were thrilled, and can you just imagine the smiles on their faces? Just the act of “giving” these specially packed purses not only made a difference in others lives, but as you can see, this is where it, being “My Sister Joanie’s Purse Project” began. Of course the Native American Indian women loved this SO much that they grew to expect these purses. Not wanting to let them down, and Danny knowing that Joanie Smith of Orange, Ca, had provided hundreds of dolls for the little Indian children all these years, Danny knew that Joanie could help him out. If she could get the purses filled, he could get them delivered

So, Joanie enlisted everyone she knew to help her out: friends, daughters, granddaughters and all of their friends as well. Purses began to pour in by the dozens! The purses had to reach Joanie by Halloween, purses that were new or gently used and filled with toiletries, hankies, pens, note cards and much more. And because these purses were going to the Native American women in Arizona where is cold, they also started collecting warm socks, scarves, gloves and other clothing items to keep the women warm. Over all those years, Joanie produced literally thousands of dolls and purses and Danny Davey and the Thunderbird Foundation, without ever hesitating, delivered these presents, gifts and more to all the delighted Native American women and children.

What is even more special about this little purse collecting we do above, is that many, many of our customers started their own version of it with their kids. As you see in the picture above with Joanie, there are two little girls, who if I remember right, made this a project for their girl scout troop. I DO have a heavy heart as I write this post. But what sincerely warms my heart up a bit the most is that Joanie's efforts to make a difference, to give to others, will continue in her honor, in her name. I know Country Roads is REALLY going to work even harder to collect more purses for this holiday season and year round as well! And to "borrow" one of Arianna's pictures from her Facebook page and her mom, Pat Barrio's quote from her Facebook page,
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou.

Joanie will be missed by many, but never forgotten! "Thank you" for everything you did to make a difference in our world!


Two Wild Roses Antiques said...

Sorry for your loss Sue. She sounds like a great woman. I just cleaned out my closet and have a ton of purses ill bring them next time we are up there.

Maureen said...

Just goes to show how each and every person can make a difference. Big or small - it all matters.

Vintage Market Place said...

Sue I am so sorry for this great loss.
You speak so peaceful and with ease about this tremendous effort she took on.
What a wonderful legacy to leave behind for all to carry on.
I am heading to my closet now to see what I have to send your way!

Full Bloom Cottage said...

So sorry to hear about your loss!! She sounds like such a great woman! Sometimes we go through life, and it seems like we are running a mile a minute, but when you stop to think about those in need, it warms your heart, and makes you want to give back! Let me see what Ive got in my closet!! I know I have a few things to bring in!

Full Bloom Cottage said...

So sorry to hear about your loss!! She sounds like such a great woman! Sometimes we go through life, and it seems like we are running a mile a minute, but when you stop to think about those in need, it warms your heart, and makes you want to give back! Let me see what Ive got in my closet!! I know I have a few things to bring in!

Blooming Rose Musings said...

Sue, I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a spectacular person with great depth of heart and soul.
I am just stopping by to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. I have been sick so I haven't had a chance to get to Country Roads lately...and I miss it. I did a post a couple of weeks ago with some of the things I got from CR. A willow cloche and a glass cloche were in my picture. I am hopefully going up to the Alameda Flea Market next month and I will look for Bryce. I will have a few of my blogger friends with me.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I am sincerely sorry about your loss.

Kate said...

Dear Sue
So sorry for your loss of this amazing lady. My you be comforted by the wonderful memories as you shared with you. Sending you love & hugs


Garden Antqs Vintage said...

Sue, sorry to hear the passing of your friend, but what an awesome person she was. Reading about the project and giving is such a sweet and simple jesture that will mean more to these women than she'll probably ever know. It is always better to think of others during this time. My heart is always heavy for those that don't even have a place to go for the holidays, seems sad doesn't it. Happy early Thanksgiving to you and yours.

time worn interiors said...

The world needs more caring people like Joanie! Sweet post! Happy Thanksgiving!

Debra@CommonGround said...

It makes us realize that we ALL can do something to help others. God puts in that desire and it's up to us to see it through! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Sue!
big hugs,