Donna Lindsay is known as the ‘Puente shopper.’ And she thinks that’s pretty perfect. Give her a wish list – whether socks or school supplies – and she will fill it. And chances are, she’ll be grinning the whole time.
“Part of it is I like buying things for Kerry (Lobel) and then getting hugs from her,” giggles Lindsay.
The San Mateo resident is no shopaholic. But she is addicted to the delicious feeling that comes from knowing that the pencil cases, Post-its, towels and t-shirts she’s purchasing with donated church funds are going to end up in the hands of students and farm workers who need those items the most.
It all started in the summer of 2010. Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel sent a letter to Congregational Church of San Mateo, a longtime Puente community ally, asking for donations to buy school supplies for South Coast students. Lindsay had recently joined the congregation after a career in Christian education at Ladera Community Church in San Mateo.
“I called up Kerry and said, ‘What school supplies do you need?’ And she said, ‘You’re the first person who has asked. Normally people just go out and get what they want.’”
Lindsay got her back-to-school shopping list – and it was enormous. 200 erasers. 700 pencils. It went on and on.
“It was off the wall,” she says.
Lindsay took the funds donated by her church and went comparison-shopping. “I found out which stores were going to be accommodating for me. Target would let me buy out everything that I needed. Other stores wouldn’t give me the cheap stuff for more than 10 items.”
The next year, Lobel called Lindsay and asked if she would go shopping on behalf of farm workers. The church took up a collection and Lindsay set out to buy work socks.
“This has been my most favorite thing,” she enthuses. “Kerry needed 300 pairs of socks. I had to do 150 pairs at a time, because that’s a lot of socks.”
It’s not the shopping itself that makes Lindsay happy. It’s the chance to tell Puente’s story to strangers who may be eyeing her a little strangely with all those socks in her shopping cart.
“People understand there are farm workers on the coast and they could use some socks. But they don’t understand that people have no way to buy them. So I tell them where it’s going.”
Since then, Lindsay has shopped for gray t-shirts in Oregon, where there’s no sales tax, and come away with a whole pile of shirts for $3.50 apiece. The store workers were so excited about Puente’s mission that they used their own employee discounts.
Another time, Lindsay walked into a Staples with a back-to-school list, a clipboard and a pen. When employees heard who she was shopping for, they gave her a big discount off everything without even having to ask.
“The manager and the clerk – they were having so much fun picking things up. I’m sitting there on a stool while they’re running around the store filling up carts,” she recalls.
This month, Lindsay is on the prowl for bath towels and washcloths – part of Puente’s lengthy holiday season ‘wish list,’ which can be found by clicking here.
“I get the biggest kick out of doing this, and them being able to go over and deliver stuff. I love it. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to do this,” says Lindsay.