“I love hats and I love tea,” Clara Petty, explained at last Saturday’s Hats Off Tea at The Hotel at the University of Toledo Medical Center, and 150 women agreed with her.
Ms. Petty, executive director of the Monroe Street Neighborhood Center, had the idea for the first tea four years ago and each year the response in the community is greater, which means more money is raised for a good cause and more hats come out for the occasion.
While the bottom line for the $35 tickets, raffle, and silent auction sales was a fund-raiser for the center’s programming costs, the parade of hats was fun and whimsical in all colors and sizes from fascinators that perched eyebrow level to wide-brimmed bonnets with floppy brims.
In congratulating the attendees on their smashing appearances, Rhonda Sewell, mistress of ceremony, gave a brief history of the role of hats in society. Once an essential part of fashion, Ms. Sewell said, women lost interest in hats until the 1980s when they made a return. Ms. Sewell is media relations coordinator of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Yolanda Willis, publisher of Minority Health Publication, was awarded a community service award. A five-year breast cancer survivor, Ms. Willis said she got the idea to publish the paper after she was diagnosed and during treatment for cancer. Her husband, Jeffrey, is the photographer and does the layouts.
Erica White, president of the center’s board, presented the award to Ms. Willis. Ms. Petty announced a second award would be given to Panera Bread for its donations of day-old baked goods to the center for six years. Panera’s term for such donations is Day End Dough.
The neighborhood center is associated with the Monroe Street United Methodist Church, where it was founded in the 1970s as a ministry to needy families in the community. In 2000 the center was incorporated as a private nonprofit agency.
“The participants are primarily from the Toledo 06 and 07 Zip Code neighborhoods, but with the economy as it is now, anybody from any Zip Code can register for the several services,” Ms. Petty said. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Toledo.
All center activities are held within the large church building at 3613 Monroe St., including a summer camp. The center rents the spacious third floor for the day camp activities and includes programs that represent local facilities, including the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Zoo, and the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg.
All center services are free except the summer camp.
Ms. Petty believes that helping people get their birth certificates is one of the most valuable services at the center.
She explained that people who move from place to place sometimes lose or don’t know how to get their birth records that are needed for things such as finding housing. In addition to offering lessons in basic computer skills, Ms. Petty noted that the computer lab is beneficial to participants who are looking for work or need help writing resumes.
Wednesdays are basket days at the center when donors bring in baskets of food or clothing, or both. The clothing is designed to be worn for job interviews. Ms. Petty said that gently worn suits for women and jackets for men are appreciated.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org