In 2014, a group of University Place residents decided that their holiday season would be spent giving back to those in need in Tacoma. On New Years Eve, they drove into Tacoma and delivered more than 60 sandwiches and various coats and socks to people who were homeless in the city, and a brand new non-profit organization, Lenny and the DreamMakers was born.
“We had great success that year and we felt really good about it,” said founder Mary Beth Quinsey. “We started saving stuff up sooner in the year so we’d have more stuff to give out, so the next year we doubled what we did. We gave out 120 sandwiches and lots more coats, hats, toiletries and that type of thing.”
Lenny and the DreamMakers got their name from Quinsey’s cat, Lenny, who is always hanging out when the team is sowing pillows for foster children, another activity the group is involved in. Lenny has since become a bit of a mascot for the group.
“Our kitty cat seemed to be very interested. He would come lay next to where the needle goes up and down on the sewing machine. He’s a real mellow cat – he was right there every time I made a pillowcase, so I just said that we should be Lenny and the DreamMakers. With the pillowcases, that would be a great name for all the things that we do – we hope we’re fulfilling dreams,” Quinsey said.
The group has about 14 regular members and makes multiple trips into Tacoma with supplies every year. Many of the members were once homeless.
“I think that gives us a unique perspective on the problems facing those who are homeless,” Quinsey said. “I think the reasons for homelessness are misunderstood. Our group has a grassroots understanding of why people get into a situation of experiencing homelessness. For the most part, the main reason people become homeless is that they don’t have a support system. They get sick, they can’t pay their bills because they don’t have family. They’ve burned bridges and they don’t have any place else to turn. It could happen to anybody.”
Instead of just going out on holidays, the group now goes on “capers” several times a year to deliver goods to those in need. The next one is scheduled to take place on July 23. The group has also rallied the local UP community. Mud Bay pet supplies is donating pet food for the next caper, and P & H Market has offered discounted socks for the group to distribute.
“There is certainly a huge need. There’s been articles about the homeless population and how much its increased in the last year, so there’s a huge need for it,” Quinsey said.
“There’s so much need that were easily able to give out 120 sandwiches. The eye opener is that if you lack that support system, there’s a great chance that some kind of tragedy could happen, and you would fall into this same situation.”
If you are interested in becoming involved with Lenny and the DreamMakers, look the group up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lennyandthedreammakers.