The holiday season tends to bring out the givers in our midst. There is a feeling of wanting everyone to feel safe and warm when the weather is less-than-hospitable. Patricia Tallman is one of these givers. She wants to help children who have been abused in some way; to help those who would otherwise be forgotten, perhaps. Pat spends a large amount of her free time and influence to spread the word about this worthy charity. She was happy to speak with me about Penny Lane and “Be A Santa”. I know that another message she would want to give is that the spirit of giving brings much happiness.
Can you tell us what about this particular charity caused you to champion their cause?
Penny Lane was founded in the 1960’s by Evalise Markovitz , a parole officer, who found that she had a lot of girls who just couldn’t be placed in regular foster care because they were such deeply dysfunctional kids. They had been so abused that it was going to take a special kind of place to see if they could recover.
The kids Penny Lane gets have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused to the point that a foster home cannot help them. In fact, they could be a danger to themselves, and others. These kids will never be ‘normal’. But they can be helped to recover and learn how to live in the world.
Pat, you have been involved with helping Penny Lane kids for over 11 years. Can you tell us what about this particular charity caused you to champion their cause?
Penny Lane is such an amazing organization. I have been volunteering there for 20 years. I started Be A Santa about 11 years ago. We try to bring some hope into these kids’ lives. You know how tough the holidays can be for normal people! Imagine if you were completely outside all the festivities, but could see and smell it all around you? We bring it to them on a very real way.
I know we have been able to show these tough, sad and cynical kids that there are people in the world who care about them. I have seen the awe in their faces when they shake Santa’s hand and take their bag of goodies, all designed for them. The bag has their names on it. It has their favorite colors, characters, and a few things they want, plus a card to go buy what they want.
I believe it has worked to give them some happiness and lighten their hearts. And that brings healing.
Do you feel that your success in film and television has something to do with your desire to “give back”?
Oh absolutely. I think most folks, when they feel blessed by success or circumstances wish to share that. I am in a unique position being in the public eye to lend my weight to organizations that need the help and visibility. I really believe it’s my responsibility.
How has “Social Networking” (FaceBook, Twitter) helped improve your charity raising funds?
It makes it easier for folks to donate. It is easier to spread the word. And it makes it more immediate. Plus, people can interact directly with me, which some like to do.
In the past, what was your typical approach to asking friends to donate to this worthy cause?
Phone calls, snail mail. Takes so much time and energy!
I started doing this while on Babylon 5 and I’d set up a big display and bully everyone into donating! LOL. No, the truth is everyone was super generous and glad to help. I had a ton of donations in those days. Now, I got nothin’. There are a few who have been able to help, but it is such slim pickins these days. I have a couple of angels like Joe Straczynski, Marg Helgenberger, Lucinda Piligian, Catherine Curry Williams and fans who have stuck with me over the years (names are on the BAS site).
I have found that science fiction and horror fans are the most generous people on the planet. Often, fans are some of the most sympathetic and caring folks around. I think it’s because as a group, sci-fi and horror fans are intelligent readers who have been through a lot in their lives. They often feel marginalized, or outside the popular group. They understand how hard life can be, and really care for these kids. They want to share some hope. It’s been a real labor of love for all of us.
I am not sure what I need to do to make this program work this time. I’m really worried. These days, most people have been through so much financially; they don’t have a lot of resources left, and I don’t want to ask them for money. I post it and ask folks to spread the word in the hopes it will reach people who can give something. The more we ask, the more possibilities, right?
These kids are so great too. They are tough, sweet, scared, and from every background you can imagine. They have very little to cling to. Thank God for the people at Penny Lane. Their funds have been cut back too, but they hang in there for the kids.
The least I can do it try to make a holiday for them.
Pat has put her heart and soul into a worthy cause that changes lives. You can feel her enthusiasm at the prospect of being able to help these kids. You can also feel her despair at the fact that not everyone can help as they used to.
We give each teen a gift bag full of nice things and stocking stuffers, and a gift card to the local mall that’s good for any store. At least that’s what I have done in the past. We provide a tree and a party.
There is a list of items and the address to send it to on the site. I am delivering on Dec 15th, which is when the party is. We have a Santa handing out the bags! It’s fun….
…And heart breaking. We have to do what we can; no matter what. That’s what hope is. Thanks so much to everyone out there who helps when they can any charity that speaks to their soul. If everyone did that, no one would be left out! Love you all. Visit me on Facebook or @patriciatallman Twitter and tell me how you are!
As Pat has encouraged, though this is a tough time, if there are means to help, even in a small way, another human being, then we should. Please visit these sites for more information on how to help.
http://www.beasanta.org/ and http://www.PennyLane.org/ .