What seemed a simple Facebook post one year ago for avid community volunteer and Oakdale City Council member Cher Bairos has blossomed into new friendships as well as a non-profit. An idea which was first fostered in the fall, following the inaugural Oakdale Community Closet event and became official this spring.
Bairos, along with fellow ‘closet’ effort pioneers Amy Velasco and Lisa Lucero Ballard, have now founded the Oakdale Enrichment Society. Recognizing the need for a fourth partner in this endeavor, the trio recruited Lupe Aguilera to serve on the board as treasurer.
The Mission Statement for the newly formed non-profit reads: We are the founding members of the Oakdale Enrichment Society, Oakdale’s newest nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching our community by creating experiences meant to keep people here in our town versus finding entertainment elsewhere. We are ambassadors bringing community together.
Bairos shared when she first made the Facebook post one year ago, she was simply looking for others interested in sharing their children’s gently used clothing with one another. Seemed simple enough. Within hours of making the post she not only realized she was on to a great idea, but she became connected with Ballard and Velasco who were all in and wanted to help make this a community event.
The councilwoman shared the trio worked so well together, she knew she would look to them for help with other projects. Aiming to strengthen all areas of their alliance, Velasco brought in Aguilera and together they became the “Fab Four.”
“Our thing is bringing people together in our community,” OES co-founder Bairos said. “Keeping them here.”
“We thought long and hard about what it is we wanted to do,” Velasco added. “Why did we start a non-profit organization? What is it we’re planning?
“It was to create fun, exciting, event opportunities,” she continued, “things for people to stay here in the city versus going elsewhere. Ways to enrich our society.”
The current event the group is working on is the Inaugural Fourth of July Celebration on Saturday, June 29. The event will host a parade which will end at Dorada Park where community members will be entertained by children’s activities, live music and food vendors from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Submissions for the parade are still being accepted. There is no entry fee, but check donations will be accepted.
Bairos, a fan of any and all parades, shared when they began speaking of events and the coming summer holiday her thought was, “Why not Oakdale?”
“What attracted me to the group, and I’ve been in a lot of groups,” Ballard explained, “this group, I feel, we’re keeping people in our community with the parades and events. Which also will help Oakdale with revenue. We’re trying to keep those local people to help them with their businesses.”
Hence the word “enrichment” in the nonprofit title and mission. The Fab Four maintains their focus on hosting events and activities which keep community members and their families local.
The board members shared the generosity of the community, quickly made it evident that they not only would need to obtain the 501c3 status, but a bank account as well. Shortly after forming OES, area groups and organizations began making donations to the group to show support of the idea.
An account for OES has been established at Oak Valley Community Bank. Paperwork for their 501c3 status has been submitted to the state for consideration.
“We’re all hard workers,” Velasco said of the board. “That’s the most important part of everything. It’s hard workers and when you put a group of hard workers together things are going to get done.”
The OES board members shared that in addition to the July 4 celebration, they will also be bringing back the Community Closet for a second time this year. They will begin collecting new and gently used clothing June 1.
“The generosity of the community that gave the clothes,” Ballard said of the impression left from the inaugural event in 2018, adding the group had one storage unit donated, which grew to two, plus garage space. “The people that were just giving and then the 150 volunteers that came to help. That to me is a big deal.”
“People were saying needy,” Bairos added. “No, it’s not for the needy. I took a Mickey Mouse sweater home. It’s for everybody.”
Ballard echoed Bairos with a similar thought, “I really want to stress it’s not for the needy. It’s for everybody.”
As the group prepares for the inaugural July 4th event, they will be seeking additional volunteers to serve on a committee and a committee meeting will be hosted Thursday, May 30 at 5:30 p.m. at Last Call Brewing Co. in Oakdale for those interested in finding out more.
The group also has a Facebook page people are encouraged to follow and share to keep up on events at OES-Oakdale Enrichment Society.
“I heard it years ago and it said see a need, fill a need,” Velasco said, “and I feel like there was a need. There’s a need for this.”
“We like to help people,” Bairos concluded.
For additional information or to inquire on specifics call Bairos at (209) 496-1134 or Velasco at (209) 840-2273.