Monday, May 19, 2014

Hustle, pt. 4: "Wear It, But Don't Bear It"

On January 5, 2013, two mothers from my kids' bus stop died. They died differently, but very painfully, and--as such horrific tragedies often turn out--very publicly.

Everyone in our neighborhood, Sleepy Hollow's "Webber Park," experienced an emotional sonic boom. One family pulled together to carry the orphaned son, who years before had lost his father to an accident and was not yet adopted by his mother's fiancé. A dear friend leaped into the other family's living nightmare, rapidly establishing a fund for the young daughters who were essentially orphaned by their father's inexcusable violence.

And me? For a month, I did the emotional equivalent of "Duck and Cover." Mortality on the mind: in stunned conversations over coffee; in my dreams; in the way I examined my children's faces to see if they heard the gossip yet, if they noticed how empty the sidewalk looked at afternoon bus drop off.

Depositing a few hundred dollars in the Howson Girls' Fund and bringing a massive chocolate-chip banana bread to the grieving fiancé and son did not relieve the kicked-in feeling in my chest. Neither did the gossipy questions ("So, did you suspect he was beating her?") and snide remarks ("Time to get a new bus stop, right?") from those who didn't know either family but should have known better.

My mother's brother had died horribly. A cousin who was raised with me like a sister had died horribly. I understood what front-page death felt like. But, I didn't know what to do to help.

Elvis said it best: "A little less conversation, a little more action."

When my tutoring students went on spring break in the first icy days of March, I spontaneously erupted with a plan. I'd have a one-night clothing sale of my fabulous finds and give all the profits to the girls, who--despite the media attention and the endless chatter--had only received $4,000 in two months of fundraising.

Jenifer Ross, of W@tercooler in Tarrytown, is as good and true and generous as everyone says. Without hesitation, she offered me her place for the night's event. She also suggested that I "Go Big."

So I DID. I decided to call what would become a blowout boutique/auction, "Wear It, But Don't Bear It (domestic violence, that is)." Catchy but not too cute, I hope.

For thirteen days and nights (thanks to my Man for watching the kids), I walked the streets in sleet and wind, begging local businesses for items to auction for the girls. With only three exceptions, our Rivertown businesses stepped up and offered their best:
tattoo time from The Mighty Horseman;

If you're going to get a tattoo, shouldn't you get one from a gorgeous Viking?

baskets of books and toys from A Nu Toy Store; boxes of rare wines from Grape Expectations;

dozens of unsold items from Tarrytown Nursery School's auction;

two nights and dinner at the top-rated Tarrytown House Estate.

Strangers who overheard me pitch the story to businesses handed me twenties, handed me checks, handed me bags of their finest couture clothing to sell.
Derek Lam, $2,000 silk brocade jacket. I always washed my hands before I touched it.
The night before the event, two talented PR and web designer friends, Fiona Galloway and Thông Nguyen--both of whom have their own lives and worries, and neither of whom knew each other or the orphaned Howson girls--organized auction booklets and designed the "Wear It, But Don't Bear It" logo.

The event itself felt like a great wedding reception: hot, sweaty, crowded, happy. I couldn't run the show by myself, and I didn't need to. At every moment, friends and strangers who became friends took over the food and wine, or ran the boutique, or monitored the auction.

That night, we raised over $12,000 for the Howson girls.

Including a second boutique and direct donations, the Howson Girls Fund got a boost of about $20,000 in just over a month.

You can still donate money to the girls: they still need it.
Look for the address at the bottom of this post.
More than a year later, I'm still sending checks to the Howson girls. Go ask Heather which items are for the girls at her hot new consignment shop, Trilogy.

My mother-in-law succinctly summed up my "Wear It..." experience: I "gave the local folk an opportunity to do the right thing for those girls." I love you all for taking that opportunity, too.

And what did I get? The knowledge that Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow is my home: I chose right.

Also, I learned that I am not a used-to-be academic, or a used-to-be teacher, or just-a-tutor. I am also a Hustler, and a damned fine one, too.

There's my Happy Badger manifesto. Now go write those girls a check.

Howson Children’s Fund
c/o Jo Anne Gorski
P. O. Box 4552
Danbury, CT. 06813-4552

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier


  1. Proud to have met such a wonderful person.

  2. Funny who you meet in The Abbey Theater ladies' room!....The whole town is that wonderful, Claire. You need to come visit. And I need to go back to Ireland, too.