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Crystal Angels help families at Christmas

by Nancy Hamlett

It was purely by accident that an intimate luncheon group of friends and relatives has evolved into a charitable organization. The Crystal Angels, now numbering 25 members, still meets every month for lunch, but now they have a goal and a purpose.

Laurie Hennessy, president of the organization, said that the luncheon tradition started in 1996 when her niece in Reno invited her to lunch. Seven women, in addition to Hennessy and her niece, met that day, and they had so much fun they decided to meet once a month at restaurants from Reno to Lake Tahoe, Carson City to the Carson Valley. Hennessy made the luncheon reservations and was unofficially dubbed the “fearless leader.”

“It mushroomed from there,” said Hennessy. “We had so much fun that one of us brought a friend who brought another friend and on and on until it developed into a network of friends. Then one day Shirley (Hennessy’s sister, Shirley Parish) and I were shopping and found the cutest crystal angels. The jeweler had only two. We bought them and my mom asked, ‘Where’s mine?’ So we ended up ordering more and gave them to people who were at lunch.”

As obvious as it seems, the name Crystal Angels was not an immediate choice. Tarnished angels and fallen angels were bantered about until LaVon Hennessy, Laurie’s mother, reminded the ladies that God doesn’t have tarnished angels. The Crystal Angels was formed.

In 1998 the Angels felt that lunching together was fun, but they needed to form a purpose for their monthly gatherings.

“We decided that we wanted to do something good for the community,” said Nikki Boyd, one of the Angels.

“Each of each threw $2-5 per month into a kitty to see how much we would have at the end of the year,” said Hennessy.

Shirley Parish was designated as the treasurer, and Hennessy continued as the fearless leader, now called the president. By the end of the year the Angels had a substantial amount in the kitty.

Marsha Tomerlin, another Crystal Angel, suggested adopting a family for Christmas through the Family Support Council.

“Giving for Christmas makes the luncheon group have a cause,” said Tomerlin. “We’re fortunate to be together, and this makes it even better.”

“It was either that or buy wine and get drunk,” teased Hennessy.

The Angels adopted two families for the 1998 holiday season supplying everything from the Christmas tree and ornaments to a complete dinner.

“We were able to supply everything on the wish lists and even bought presents for the moms,” said Hennessy. “Moms just want their children to have a Christmas so they don’t ask for anything. But shouldn’t Santa Claus visit them as well?”

The Angels felt so good about helping others that they expanded their fund-raising efforts. A garage sale would allow them help more families. The Angels collected items for the sale from friends and family. Other organizations contributed as well, with the Valley Cruisers bringing carloads of donated items. The first garage sale raised $1,100.

“We had items priced so low that people were giving us more than we were asking once they knew it was for charity,” said Mae Domhoff, the 89-year-old matriarch of the organization.

As the word spread, local businesses began sending their casts-off to the Angels. Winter coats and bolts of material joined the normal garage sale fare. The Angels baked cookies and brownies. They served lattes. Two garage sales are now held during the year, in April and October. The October garage sale raised $1,622.

However, there is more to the garage sales than raising money. Every child that visits the sale leaves with a gift, and the clothes that aren’t sold during the sale are donated to victims of domestic violence.

This year the Angels are hoping to sponsor five families at Christmas. To help with that cause, Frank Petrello is allowing the Angels to serve as guest bartenders at Petrello’s Pony Express Cafe. In exchange for a lot of laughter and revelry, the Angles are allowed to keep the tips. The Angels hope you will visit them at Petrello’s on Nov. 10 and 17, the next two times they will be allowed behind the bar.

“We enjoy doing this as much as we like going to lunch together,” said Hennessy. “The Crystal Angels is all about friendship. If you haven’t had your daily requirement of hugs for the last month, you’ll catch up at one of our luncheon meetings. Hugs when you get there, hugs when you leave. We’ll find any excuse to give a hug.”

The Crystal Angels will gladly accept donations for their garage sales during the year. They are especially looking items that could be classified as “men stuff.”

“So many times the men will come to the sales and we don’t have anything to offer them,” said Hennessy. “We hate to have anyone leave without finding something special.”

For more information about Crystal Angels, or if you are interested in donating for their next garage sale, Hennessy can be contacted at 783-9533.

Not present for the photo of the group, but hardworking (and easy-hugging) Crystal Angels also include Kettie Kanelas, Bev Wells, Cathy Snyder, Jennie Tolman, Josie Graves, Joan Bussa, Allison Bussa, Mary Jo Savoy, Millie Thompson, Jan Klauber, Betty Grasso, Jolene Davis and Arlene Ingham.