In late 2005, Tonya Brown-Munn and her daughter, Veronica, stayed for several weeks at the La Posada Family Emergency Shelter in Toledo. Her own home had burned down, and she had nowhere to turn and no funds to tide her over.
Now, fortunately, Tonya is doing much better, but she still remembers the time she spent at the shelter as a time of healing, learning and growth.
“Being there was humbling. It made me reflect on how tenuous our lives really are,” Mrs. Brown-Munn, now a Business student nearing graduation from the University of Toledo, said. “Those people made us feel like we were at home when we didn’t have a home. They were so good to us. Now whenever I drive by, I beep the horn just to say hi, just to say thank you.”
In fact, Mrs. Brown-Munn does much more than that. This past April, she organized a Build-a-Bear and pizza party for the 20 children who were staying at La Posada at the time.
Dogs, ponies and an alligator
The party’s sponsors – Build-a-Bear and Marco’s Pizza – were approached by Mrs. Brown-Munn, who wanted to do something for the children of La Posada.
“I was working with executives at both Build-a-Bear and Marco’s on a project for school. In the course of that work, I happened to visit a Build-a-Bear store, and I saw the smiles on the faces of children who were enjoying building their own animals,” she recalled. “I thought, I’d like to bring those same smiles to the faces of kids who aren’t as fortunate, who maybe can’t afford to go to Build-a-Bear.”
She approached both organizations about sponsoring a party at La Posada, and she got a green light. So, on Good Friday evening last April, parents brought their little ones into the front room at La Posada and opened the bags of assorted stuffed Build-a-Bear animals – fluffy dogs, a huggable unicorn, an alligator, a few ponies, and – not surprisingly – several teddy bears of different sizes, textures and colors.
The smiles took place as scheduled, as wide-eyed children, excited at their sudden good fortune, clutched their furry new friends.
It was a party worth remembering for both parents and children, Jeanelle Addie, La Posada’s Case Manager, said. “I don’t think any of them will forget it any time soon.”
“Doing things for people – paying it back, paying it forward, whatever you call it – just makes you feel good,” Tonya said. “The people staying at La Posada don’t have much, and they can’t always do what they’d like to for their kids. But they enjoy good things as much as anyone. I just remember that the people who took us in at La Posada were able to make my daughter and me feel really good at a time when we were feeling really bad. And I wanted to do something to make the people who are staying there now feel good.”