Recently we were featured on OpenLine with Tamara Heide and wanted to share the audio with you, we thought you might like video to go with it, so one of our volunteers reached in to our archives and put this together, we hope you enjoy it.
Spectrum News Channel 1, came out to learn all about Patriots and Paws, here is their story.
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When Penny Lambright was a kid, the youngest of five siblings, her family called her Sarge because she was a take-action kind of girl. Also when she was a kid, her U.S. Marine dad who had fought in WWII and Korea had a raging case of post-traumatic stress disorder, often trying to bayonet her mom when he was in the throes of nightmares.
Put that together and it’s perhaps not surprising then that when she later inherited $125,000, about the time her Army nephew came to her asking for help for his unit, she put every penny into founding an organization for vets in need — Patriots and Paws.
The charity operates out of a giant warehouse in Anaheim. Basically, Lambright collects donated household items, such as gently used sofas and sheets and silverware, and invites vets in to “shop.”
“It’s like a thrift store on steroids,” she says. A thrift store where everything is free.
To see the lives she has changed, visit the Patriots and Paws’ YouTube channel, where a few hundred vets give thanks.
It all started in 2010, after Lambright’s nephew Sam returned home from his second deployment to the Middle East. He told his aunt that his unit compatriots were coming home broke and needed help.
“I said ‘OK,’” says Lambright, now 58. “I had no idea what that meant.”
At the time she was running a professional organizer company called Clutter Cleaners out of Huntington Beach.
Her mother had recently died, and Lambright was left $125,000. Using the inheritance, she rented a storage unit in Fountain Valley. It quickly filled up with donated items so she rented another. And then another. Six stuffed units later she moved the whole operation to a warehouse in Orange. Two years ago she upgraded to the 7,700-square-foot warehouse in Anaheim.
It’s a beehive of activity. A chopper the Vietnam Vets of American Chapter 1024 takes to parades is parked in the yard. Trucks pull up to be loaded and unloaded. Vets wander the aisles of furniture and coffeemakers.
Lambright says she has helped more than 8,000 vets since starting the nonprofit. And she takes pride that the pandemic has not slowed her down.
“We’ve done over 1,000 pickups this year,” she says. “We have not stopped seeing families or closed one day due to COVID.”
Some of the vets she helped have returned to volunteer, including Marine Frank Contreras.
“My wife and I were homeless in 2017 and we had nothing; no silverware, no plates,” said Contreras, 59. When they finally got into an apartment, “Penny hooked us up with everything we needed. Without her, we’d still be sleeping on the floor.”
Lambright said spending her inheritance on others “wasn’t even a thought.” She was, however, surprised the money ran out so soon. A few years into the adventure she gave up her rental house in Orange and moved to the warehouse — with her three rescue dogs and her Harley — just so she could keep the nonprofit running.
“This is my everything,” she explains, although she still owns Clutter Cleaners and teaches an extension class on getting organized at Cal State Fullerton.
She has since moved out of the warehouse and today rents a place in Tustin where she lives with a couple of roommates and her pit bull, Jake.
This is where the “paws” in Patriots and Paws comes in. Lambright believes dogs rescue us as much as we rescue them. So part of her mission is to work with animal rescue groups to pair vets with dogs.
“You can tell your dog anything a hundred times and there’s no judgment,” she says. “They’ll just lick your face and say, ‘OK, it’s all good.’ ”
No judgment is a way to describe Lambright herself, friends and volunteers say.
A Navy vet who doesn’t want her name printed because of domestic safety issues decorated her entire low-income housing unit from Patriots and Paws. She found a dryer, beds for her kids, dressers, quilts — and a friend.
“Penny shows more kindness than most people out there do,” the woman said.
Lambright said she was simply taught to be of service from a young age.
“Every day I get up and I think how can I take care of my veterans?” she says. “Every day is a good day that I’m serving them.”
Tattooed onto the inside of her left wrist are the words “Choose Joy,” a reminder to herself to stay positive. On the outside of her wrist is “Speak Life.”
“I try to speak life into people, say things to build them up,” she says. “Some of the vets, when they come in here they’re angry and they’re mad. I tell them, ‘We’re going to make lemonade out of your lemons.’”
Negativity is not permitted.
“We don’t let drama in here,” she says. “It’s a drama-free zone.”
Outside, next to the chopper, Lambright has built a fence out of pallets that she calls the “Leave Your Burden Behind” wall. Vets are invited to pick up a sharpie and write a message.
“Whatever it is you’re carrying, go ahead and write it on that wall and leave it behind,” she tells them. “It’s pretty amazing to read. There’s a lot of forgiveness; forgiving other people and forgiving themselves. I am completely humbled by what people are dealing with.”
Pam Mehl has been friends with Lambright since Edison High School in Huntington Beach and although she lives in Santa Maria now, she drives down at least several weekends a year to volunteer.
“Penny’s about as real as it gets,” she says. “She was always the friend who was gonna help somebody with something. That person you could count on.”
A note from our Founder with a recap from 2020
Wow, what a year of strife 2020 was, none of us saw coming. During this pandemic, we remained open and served 1150 Veterans, Active Duty, and Reservists – breaking our records.
We are honored to serve those who provide us our Freedom. We are the conduit. Donors are the electricity. Veterans are the lamps. Because of compassion, our Veterans light up so they are no longer living in the dark.
With the support of generous donors, we have kept our warehouse stocked with items that are needed to make a home. Basic things like linens, dishes, couches, and lamps. Since we have continued to do pickups and others have stopped, we have been given an abundance of gently used items. In addition to adding an extra pick up day a week, we are now scheduling out 4-5 weeks to maintain these pickups.
Because we have limited warehouse space, we have had to make a tough decision to as to what we take to be sure we have the most requested items in stock.
One of our recently helped Veterans had been homeless for 6 years. She was able to access her VA benefits in order purchase a new home which took most of her resources. This left her with the need to fill her house with practical home furnishings. Because of the kindness of our donors, this Veteran was able to fill her new house to truly create her home.
This year we are tasked to get a newer truck. State emission regulations require our 2007 truck to either go to another state, or we expend a significant amount to bring it up to date. We have set a budget and are in the process of finding one that will fit our needs. This has been a challenge with the limited number of trucks available in California.
On Memorial Day weekend we started a “Leave Your Burden Behind” wall. We encourage everyone who visits to use it. We walk with them to the wall, give them a sharpie, and tell them to leave behind whatever is weighing them down.
We ask them not to sigh it and encourage them to read it out loud to themselves. We suggest they take some time to read the burdens left by others so they know they are not alone. Then, we quietly walk away to give them much needed privacy. We believe everyone should have the chance to have a positive moment to take with them into the future. It is amazing to read the burdens our heroes are leaving on this wall. So much hurt and disappointment. If we save one person from suicide, then it is worth it all.
To understand how our clients have changed, we regularly send out surveys. Here is just a small sample of the hope and dignity our heroes are sharing:
…It’s been amazing and such a heartwarming experience to receive help from P&P. Not many people in this world take time out of their lives to help give back to Veterans and every time I visit P&P I feel like I’m back in The Marines and I get nothing but love and respect from the staff at P&P. Thank you all so much and keep to the Corps values Honor, Courage,& Commitment.
…Showed my kids that when I’m stuck, I can get help.
…Patriots and Paws has provided a positive impact in my life by making me feel comfortable in my own home. Most importantly they made me feel appreciated.
…Through receiving items from Patriots and Paws I’m beginning to get my place in order. I am still in need of a few things and once I have finished organizing, I will see if I am okay with just with what I have. What really helped is being able to write on what I call the “Veteran need to release to heal gate.” Thank you so much for that.
…After losing everything we had, ‘down in the dumps’ didn’t even begin to describe our feelings. After the way everything transpired, we pretty much lost faith in anybody other than ourselves. Patriots and Paws did so much more than help get us back on our feet, so much more than refurnishing our new place with the items we’d lost. They restored our faith in people.
…I don’t have to sit on the floor.
During the brief breakdown in lockdown, we were able to have our 6th Annual Car Show. It was the best car show we have ever had! Plans are underway for 2021.
Please save the date for our rescheduled our Golf Tournament. The new date is Monday, May 10th, and it will be at Tustin Ranch again.
We were able to be apart of hosting a Veterans Day Celebration with Tustin American Legion Post 227 at Rock & Brew celebrating/remembering our Veterans.
In celebration of harvest and abundance, this year we provided Thanksgiving Dinner Bags to over 200 Veterans again due to the support of our community and donors.
And we were able to add a small pumpkin patch fundraiser through the generous donation of a local pumpkin farm.
When we help each Veteran, we give an average value of $700 worth of furnishings through the kind donations of gently used items. Even with the items donated, it costs us about $250.00 per Veteran so we help to continue to do this work.
We are able to keep the cost down with the help of:
- volunteers, who give their blood, sweat and tears to take care of our Veterans
- companies whose employees come in and give their time and match funds when their employees donate to us
- Veterans who come back to volunteer and give their time to help other Veterans
- students who come in give their time
Since we started at the end of 2011, we have helped over 8,000 Veterans and their families, our volunteers have put in over 100,000 hours and we have done over 7,500 pickups, this doesn’t include donations that have been dropped off.
If you are considering year end giving, we would be grateful for any donation. If you are able, we truly hope you consider supporting Patriots and Paws as a monthly donor and attending our events so our Veterans, Active Duty, and Reservists know they are part of a community that cherishes their presence.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and healthy New Year,
CEO, Founder, and Board Chair
Ways you can support Patriots and Paws
- Give Cash in a lump sum or become one of our monthly donors.
Cash is an easy way to give each year. You will receive a dated receipt from Patriots and Paws so you can properly document your cash gift. A canceled check provides sufficient documentation only for gifts by check if they are less than $250. Visit our Donation Page to Donate Cash Now!
- Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) #29090
The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all. More info about CFC
Do you shop on Amazon? Register Patriots and Paws as your charity of choice and Amazon will make a donation on your behalf every time you use the smile.amazon.com link to buy. More info about AmazonSmile
- Food4Less / Ralphs Club Members #83081
If you shop at Food4Less or Ralphs, simply choose Patriots and Paws (#83081) as your charity and a donation will be made every time you buy groceries! More info on Ralphs Community Contributions Program
- Give appreciated stock or other property
When you give property to Patriots and Paws, we’ll sell it, and you will eliminate all the capital gains tax you would have paid had you sold it yourself. Your gift will be deductible at its full fair market value as of it’s date of delivery if you have held it for more than one year.
Invest in a life income plan
A life income gift provides you with payments for the rest of your life, and Patriots and Paws with support thereafter. If you use appreciated securities that you’ve owned longer than a year to fund the gift, you will be entitled to an income tax deduction based, in part, on the charitable portion of the security’s full value.
Real estate, artwork, or other property
Give personal or real property that would have resulted in the greatest capital gain if you would have sold the asset instead.
- Donate a life insurance policy
A gift of a life insurance policy you no longer need makes a perfect year-end gift. To qualify as a deductible gift, Patriots and Paws must become the policy owner. For most types of insurance policies, your tax deduction is usually the cost basis or the fair market value of the policy – whichever is less.