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T Q&A

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Judy Patrick has been involved with Open Inn, an organization providing help for Arizona's at-risk children, in one capacity or another for about 25 years. She described herself as a scavenger who's always trying to get people to donate old office furniture, computers or anything else to the organization. Now, Patrick is the chairwoman for the Open Inn 32nd anniversary luncheon and fundraiser, at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, at the Manning House, 450 W. Paseo Redondo. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased by calling 318-9100.

Tell me about some of the things Open Inn does.

Open Inn has been around since 1974. It's a community-based nonprofit, and they provide shelter for youth and families at risk, from the ages of 8 to 17. We always say we're the Casa de los Niños of older kids, my husband and I do. Everybody loves the little ones, but it's hard for the older ones. Some of them are homeless children; they have come home from school in some cases and found themselves with no parent home--their parents have left and left them on their own. Some are runaways.

How many kids are we talking about that go through Open Inn?

Eleven thousand a year.

Wow, that's a lot.

Yeah. Think about McKale (Memorial) Center. Fill that up; that's how many kids or families we're dealing with yearly. (McKale actually has a seating capacity of about 14,500.)

Why did you get involved with Open Inn?

A friend of my husband's who is on the board asked my husband to be on the board. We do a lot of volunteer work, and we saw this as something that we could really care about, because Boys and Girls Clubs get a lot of attention. They can raise a lot of money, and everybody loves little babies. Who doesn't? But what about these poor kids from 8 to 18? ... So we became very committed to helping them out in whatever way. And my husband has probably spent more time, because he's been in the shelters, and he was in construction, so there's always a need going on there. But we help each other in whatever projects we do.

What do you get out of it personally?

Somebody really needs to be advocating for kids, I think. You know, I had a great childhood. I'm blessed that I got into the right family. It's sad to me that at 12 years old, sometimes you don't know where you're sleeping, or you're sleeping with total strangers. And you're not coming home from school and bringing your pals over and playing games or going out and playing soccer, and doing a lot of things that some people take for granted. There are kids out there who come home and find nobody at home anymore, and maybe they have brothers and sisters to take care of. How do you do that at 10 or 12 years old? How do you have good life skills?

Does Open Inn teach them life skills?

We do provide them with education and life skills--just the basics. ... If you need to use the bus, then how do you use the bus? Maybe some hygiene (skills). We have kids who are 17, for example. They may be in an unstable family situation. They can't go back home, but where do they go? Some of them even find themselves pregnant, and we will help them get through that and teach them how to take care of themselves and prepare for a child. We teach them social skills, such as how to deal with a confrontation with somebody at school. Or just education skills relating to homework. Whatever it is that you have to do with kids--settling squabbles or teaching them right from wrong--you're doing that.

What's going to happen at this luncheon?

It's a fun lunch. We get you in and out of there, 11:30 to 1:30. We stay right on schedule. We have a quick-fire raffle we do that's really kind of fun. ... It's really fast; it's fun, and it's affordable for everybody to participate.

Will there be speakers?

Yes, we had hoped to have a lady from national Safe Place, but that has not happened. ... So I'm probably now going to get up and speak about who we are, and what we're about, to give people a picture. Then we are planning on having a couple of our kids (speak). These are kids who are done with us. Actually, one of the girls who spoke three years ago, she was a case where she was totally abandoned with her brothers and sisters. I think (Child Protective Services) found out about her, and we ended up with her. She was 15, and she graduated from college. Now she comes back and helps Open Inn. ... You can pay for them (children) now, or you can pay for them later. If you don't help them now, then they're going to be in the system.

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