It’s not the word anyone wants to hear when they are calling to ask someone for donations and assistance, but it was the word Chere Perrigo’s sister-in-law, Kelli True, heard in 2011, when she first called Chere, seeking her help with a fundraiser. Yet, it was that, “No” which may have propelled Chere directly into the work she so passionately says, “Yes,” to nowadays.
“My sister in law was working on a telethon for the hospital, and called and asked if I wanted to give, and I said, ‘No,’” says Chere. “Really it was because I thought the administrative fees were just too high coming out of w hat was given, so I asked if there was any other way I could help.”
After doing some research, Kelli reported back that the children in the psychiatric unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center, were not able to participate in the hospital Christmas party.
“That was it, that was what I wanted to do,” says Chere, of where her heart’s mission lay. “I feel like everything I have ever done for donations or charity has been, and will be, for kids. They have no say in their lives, but are along for the ride, oftentimes, through hard times. It is heart breaking. A lot of kids show up in the psychiatric unit with just the clothes on their back. Children in the hospital, or even at Ronald McDonald House, get things and get to go to a party, but that little unit was forgotten, and nobody does things for those kids.”
There were 24 beds in the psychiatric unit, so Chere and her sister in law set out to put together individual gifts and stockings for each child in the unit. It started that first year with funding coming from their own pockets, with Chere contributing $2,000 and Kelli $1,000. They gathered together the gifts, held a wrap party and then delivered the gifts to the hospital. Because the children are in the psychiatric unit, which is not open to the public, Chere was not able to see the children’s response to the gifts. She did, however, receive an impacting thank you in the form of thank you cards written by each of the children who received a stocking and gifts.
What started as a one time way to give back soon grew. Word of the project got back to clients of Chere’s the salon which she owns, Alexander York Salon and Barbershop, and they wanted to help as well. “It’s always been us, friends and family, that have done this,” says Chere. Soon, dentists were donating toothpaste and toothbrushes to include in the gifts, and there were more people who wanted to contribute. “I had people and businesses that wanted to donate money,” says Chere, so last year, the organization became a 501(c)3 non-profit group.
When it came time to picking a name for their organization, the one they came up with seems almost too goo to be true, seeing how perfectly it describes Chere and Kelli. True Angels Children’s Foundation not only describes what Chere, Kelli, and all of the friends and family who have supported their cause are, but it also is a play on words, as True is Chere’s maiden name, and Kelli's last name.
As these True Angels take their non-profit forward, there are new goals for them to conquer. This last year they provided summer camp experiences for 20 different children from the community, at two different summer camps. The children who were helped were selected by the camps themselves. “They know who can’t afford it,” says Chere, “so the camps got to decide who to use the funds for.”
Chere uses her annual tithe to fund many of the expenses of True Angels Children’s Foundation, as well as the donations of those who support it. The charity may have just gotten one of the greatest boosts it could, with the addition of a supporter and good friend of Chere, named Janet, who has a background in fundraising and will work as a development director, helping the organization grow and move forward.
The goal for an organization is to move forward and grow, but even with that goal, you sometimes wonder if the work you are doing is making a difference. This last year, one of Chere’s clients at the salon told her a story that reassured her the work she is doing is making a difference. This client is training as a nurse, and noticed one of the patients in the children’s psychiatric unit, where she was training, was carrying around an orange bear. This child would not connect with her and would not talk to anyone, until she was asked about the bear. At that point her face lit up and she started sharing. Turns out the bear was a Christmas gift given to her by True Angels Children’s Foundation, and it was the one thing she could use to connect with others.
“You just don’t know what a difference one gift can make,” says Chere. That is true. One gift given in love can change a city — or the life of one within int, and that is what Chere Perrigo is helping to do. What an angel!
There are so many great non profits, and so many great causes (disabilities, cancer, homelessness, substance abuse, etc.), so how do you decide which charity events you will attend or which causes you will support?
My heart is with kids and animals….the ones who have no say in their lives directions.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment other than your family?
Stay tuned….the best is yet to come
What is the most important contribution you’ve made to Spokane over the last 10 years?
I’ve never really thought about it.
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
A connection and being kind
Aside from your family, what is your most treasured possession?
I’m not materialistic. If it was all gone tomorrow, it’s not that big of a deal.
With all the activities you juggle, how do you handle the stress that might come with it? What keeps you grounded and focused?
My husband is an amazing sounding board, praying and my drive time. My drive time is my ‘Jesus’ time…I don’t always get to listen to music at home but I ALWAYS listen to Shine 104.9 while I’m driving. It’s my Jesus time!
Do you have a cherished family tradition?
My youngest is turning 30 this summer and our family has only ever been apart for one Christmas morning in all our years. We spend Christmas morning together with momma making biscuits and gravy, stockings, presents, eating candy (from stockings) and watching movies (also from stockings) all day. Best day of the year!
What are your favorite places to travel, and leisure activities in which to participate?
I try to travel as much as possible 😊 but at least go to Puerto Vallarta once a year and my fave thing is spending the day on a 54 ft catamaran sailing on the ocean. Love to explore new places, lay on the beach and soak up rays…basically anywhere and anything tropical and warm (hot). I love minimum 80 degrees
What is your favorite for each of the following?
Book: I really only read business type books. Books that help live life and do business
Movie: Arthur. The one with Dudley Moore. I refuse to watch the remake!
TV Show: anything HGTV or DIY 😊
Who do you really admire?
That’s a list that forever grows. One of those people is my step brother. He was a drug addict, alcoholic and spent time in jail. For the past 5 years he’s been clean and sober, has helped build a church, started his own business which has taken off, and much more. I’m proud of the person he’s becoming.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Future goals?
I try not to make plans too far into the future. I find that God gets a pretty big chuckle out of our mere plans. I prefer, instead, to leave that future up to Him.
What is one thing you have to do every day?
I hate waking up to an alarm clock…does that count? Not waking up to an alarm
What is, hands down, your favorite food or meal?
Any hidden talents, or fun trivia facts about you?
LOVE LOVE LOVE to bake. My daughter, Skye, and I would love to have a bakery someday
Describe your perfect day.
Remember that catamaran? Ocean, sunshine, sailing
What are some local organizations whose causes you support, either by attending an event for them, or you are just a fan of their cause?
Generation Alive, Spokane Humane Society, and mine (True Angels Children’s Foundation) of course!
What is the best advice you have been given?
About 24 years ago we had a hiccup in life and I came to the realization that my ‘gift’ was faith. And about 10 years ago I had that advice tattooed on my arm. It reads ‘The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen’. My fave Bible verse.
For what are you most grateful?
Daily, waking up.
What is your favorite place you have travelled to?
Oh my….travel is my fave, doesn’t really matter where. But if I had to choose, Paris, Venice, Cote D’Azur, and that catamaran!
What is your dream vacation?
My whole family together, anywhere.