Interview and photos BY JAN OSBORN.
Often we hear people quoting the famous phrase: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” For six women who met while their daughters attended Episcopal School of Dallas, they understand the meaning of this saying. Becky Mills, LuAnne Hobbs, Melinda Emmons, Kim Rhone, Tamara O’Connor and Christie Schmitt not only have remained good friends during these times, the six women have formed a bond and even given themselves a name: The YaYas.
We met up with the YaYas on Tuesday morning and followed them to deliver sandwiches, chips, cookies and water to the SoupMobile and they answered a few questions for us.
Would you share your story of how the YaYas got started?
Kim: Our daughters’ grew up in Preston Hollow, within a seven street radius and attended the Episcopal School of Dallas. We became friends thru carpools, volunteering (two Parent Association Presidents), soccer teams, basketball teams, etc. The girls graduated in 2014 and dispersed to separate states for college, but our friendship continued. In 2017, my mom died in a tragic home invasion. Mom had five best friends from the Apparel Mart and they called themselves the “Six Pack.” They traveled together, celebrated weddings and births of grandchildren, mourned losses and met every Monday night to raise a glass and share a meal while watching Dancing with Stars. These women showed me the strength of laughter and friendship. After Mom passed, my friends fed me and my family for weeks, offered moral and spiritual support, randomly dropped orchids on the back porch with words of encouragement and when it finally came time to put Mom’s house on the market, I asked them to help me with the estate sale. Clearly I was still in shock, because none of us had ever done an estate sale and I didn’t know the first thing about it. Together with the Six Pack (and LuAnne’s new puppy), we cleaned out everything in the house, attic and garage, then priced it all, staged it, put out signs. Our husbands and friends joined us to work the sale for an entire weekend. It’s kind of like war. When you go thru something that emotionally and physically exhausting, you quickly realize that bonds like these are special and rare. We were inspired by Mom’s soul mates, “The Six Pack” and decided we needed a name. Christie came up with the “YaYas” from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares. The YaYas defined themselves as, “a group of three or more women whose hearts and souls are joined together by laughter and tears shared through the glorious journey of life.” Please understand, I would never encourage any of you to do your own estate sale, but I highly recommend finding and putting a special name to your soul mates, because whether celebrating, quarantining or coping, these are your people and they will always make you laugh!
How did you as a group decide that you wanted to help feed the homeless?
Tamara: Becky suggested it and we followed. Hearing the adverse impact of this virus and sheltering in place on so many, I was looking for a way to help. Making lunches is a great way. Becky told us about the SoupMobile and how due to the virus they had lost their volunteers to deliver and the staff to make the meals.
Becky: In looking for how to help during these extraordinary times with coronavirus, I looked to the Dallas Morning News Charities which raises money to support 23 local organizations serving the needs of the homeless and our community. The SoupMobile posted the need for peanut butter sandwiches, chips and cookies – easily dropped at their Good Latimer location. I loved that they were a faith-based organization serving to feed, shelter and care for the needs of the homeless. I knew The YaYas would want in on providing supplies and rallying the village. Many love this beautiful organization that started in 2003. It’s such a joy to drop these needed supplies once a week. I hope we can support this impactful organization for many years to come.
LuAnne: This has certainly been a group effort: my tennis team and my neighbors were huge contributors just from sending them a text letting them know we were going to be taking a load each Tuesday. People who live in Dallas want to help others but often don’t know where or what is needed. Dallas is such a generous city.
Christie: We all are taking turns being the driver each week and taking the deliveries. We have also reached out for additional support from our neighbors and friends.
How do you encourage and inspire each other during this time of COVID-19?
Melinda: Early on, we decided to stay in touch with a weekly Zoom Happy Hour. I volunteered to schedule them and send out the Zoom invites. It’s been a great way for us to remain close and support one another.
Tamara: The daily texting contact with the YaYas during this time has been so uplifting. Not only do we hear about great suggestions like this way to feed the homeless but we also encourage each other, give helpful tips, share success stories and funny memes and comfort each other when times are tough. I feel so fortunate to have my YaYa sisters!
Christie: Laughing, commiserating and praying together. Whether it is a shared set prayer time for ending the pandemic, making each other laugh with group text funnies or commiserating (usually with humor), the friendship provides strength and inspiration during this challenging time.
The SoupMobile was founded in 2003 by David Timothy, a.k.a. SoupMan, on a wing and a lot of prayers. The SoupMobile is different from traditional soup kitchens in that we are ‘mobile’ and take the food to areas where the homeless congregate. The SoupMobile is literally on the front lines of the war against hunger in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about The SoupMobile or how you can help, click here.
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!