November 19th is special for Clap Your Hands – it is our first year of officially becoming a non-profit 501 (c) (3). What an amazing year it has been too. It’s been a year of meeting new people and breaking out of our comfort zone. We learned how to do things we never thought were possible.

We began the year setting goals for Clap Your Hands. Our first goal was to donate 800 therapeutic products for 2015. We wanted to partner with local therapists and schools within the tri-county. We set up a go-fund-me account to off-set the cost of buying pellets and material. We knew we could no longer financially support CYH’s without outside assistance from the community.

We began by setting up a board of 2 outstanding women in the community. Jennifer Horres, owner of Path Finders, and Roxene Bacon, assistant to the director. Both have many years working with the special needs community and 40+ years of being a skilled seamstress.

We held several Sewing Bee’s around the tri-county area, and were asked to come and speak at many quilting guilds, churches, and organizations.

We quickly outgrew storage in our homes, so we began the process of looking at storage units. The only problem was we had no extra money to do that, and we couldn’t guarantee a regular monthly payment. We put the word out that we were excited about all the growth but now needed a storage unit for free. They said it couldn’t be done, but within the week we signed a contract at a local storage unit – free of charge.

We also knew we needed to have a website. Knowing nothing on how to go about this, I again sent out a message for HELP! Within days our prayers were answered again. Alford Photography added us onto their web domain. All we had to pay was $11.99 per year for our domain name. The average cost to start up a website is about $1,200.00. I had written to several companies, explaining our very tight budget, and being non-profit. The cheapest agency quoted us a price of $500.00, which would be a barebones website.  We have been blessed with an amazing website now and appreciate all Paul Alfords hard work.

The go fund me account was great, but still not enough to meet the ever increasing demand for our products. We knew the next step would be in filling out the application for Grants. We were told we needed to hire a firm/person who specialized in the “art” of writing a Grant proposal. We were once again confronted with costs. We had no money, but we knew we had to go to the next level. I was blessed to have a friend, Shelli Quenga, who has had many years working on Grant applications. She directed us to the Coastal Community Foundation.   The first grant was daunting.   The first application was by invitation only. We had to write an essay, and have a personal interview. The application itself was extremely detailed, along with home site visits. Of course when you’re talking about money, they want to know who they are giving their money to. The application itself was several pages long, and very precise. Every evening my husband and I poured over each page, making changes and trying our best to make it as professional as possible. After all, without the Grant’s we wouldn’t be able to do what we do in our community. No pressure…lol

When we heard back from the first Grant, they informed us that they approved our Grant. Not only did we get the Grant, but they doubled it! Who does that? We were so grateful and humbled. Since that time we have filled out a total of 4 Grants, and are presently working on the last one for 2015. We are finalists on Grant’s 2 and 3. We are still waiting to hear back from Grant number 4. This has been such a learning experience, and I have to say, that the Foundation we are working with, are extremely helpful, compassionate and kind. They want us to succeed too.

During the summer we were devastated by the loss of our beloved team member, Rex Porter. He was our Public Relations Officer and a friend. Because of him, we are a non-profit today. He worked with us to get all the paperwork in, and answer all of our questions. He left his imprint with the entire team, and he will be forever missed.

We began our non-profit using our own money….so our budget was 0. As we started to receive donations, it averaged about $3,000.00, last spring, for the year. We are continually updating our budget now, which is about $23,000.00. This may go up again, depending on the Grants.

So, what are we buying? Our biggest expense is Pellets. Without pellets we don’t work. We have gone through an estimated 1,920 pounds of pellets, but we’re getting ready to order another large shipment. One of the blessings we received this summer was by our wholesale pellet man…who lives in Tennessee. We ordered 1,200 lbs. and our shipping cost was going to be over $400.00. He didn’t want us to have to pay for shipping, so he loaded up his own truck, and personally delivered us the pellets, saving us shipping costs. He then turned around and donated us another 150 lbs. of pellets. God is so good, and we are so grateful for the kindness of others. We were also able to purchase 6 new sewing machines, to take with us on Sewing Bee’s and private sewing lessons. Material is another cost. We do take donations of material, but it is hit or miss how much we can actually use. Because we had to use our funds for so long, our thought process is…how can we save money? Do I have any coupons? Where are the best deals in our area? Many times I come home and will find coupons or a bag of pellets on my front porch. This has been such a blessing to us. We continue to be an ALL volunteer work force. Many of my team members work full time, or have several other obligations…yet they always have time to make one more product for us. Without them CYH’s would not be where we are today. They sacrifice their weekends, evenings to sew, coming to meetings, and or work on fundraisers.

We presently work with approx. 75 therapists, 10+ schools, and 2 physicians. Our numbers increase weekly, and we are always looking for seamstresses of all sewing skills. At the present time (through the end of October) we have donated 937 therapeutic products around the tri-county area. Our seamstresses work out of their own homes, at their own pace. We work directly with the child’s therapist, teacher, and or physician. The child must also have a medical diagnosis. We are not medical professionals, so we work closely with your child’s medical or educational professional to ensure our products are the best possible for the individual child.

From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. Thank you to our amazing therapists, teachers, and our beautiful families. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Thank you for each donation. Thank you to my awesome team!

See everyone in 2016

Sue Desautels

Executive Director