BY PASCALE MONTGOMERY
It is a beautiful Monday afternoon and the breeze gently rustles the trees outside the Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop. A donor is greeted by a volunteer as she sets down her boxes of gently used clothes and jewelry to be sorted and placed in the store.
Located in the Barnyard Shopping Center, Yellow Brick Road has been giving back to the community for more than 30 years. By selling donated items, the organization has reached a milestone in officially raising $6 million in the form of grants and scholarships since its establishment in 1988.
This year alone, the Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop has already donated over $53,000 to various organizations across the county, including Carmel High School.
“We have given to Carmel High School’s music program, robotics team, various sports teams, Sober Graduation and various CHS scholarships,” Yellow Brick Road volunteer Sue Clayton says.
The organization was able to award college scholarships to 2017 Carmel High graduates Andy Lambert, who is currently attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Malari Allard, who is attending Northeastern University, to name a pair.
The benefit shop consists of three storefronts: one for clothes and household items, one for books and one for furniture. According to Clayton, the shop is able to give more back to the community by having more stores because they are able to receive more donations.
“It’s truly encouraging to see the caliber of students growing and maturing among us,” says Betsy Conron, the director of scholarship applications for the benefit shop. “Yellow Brick Road scholarships are reserved not just for those students who do their best in the classroom, but in the community as well.”
Not only does the Yellow Brick Road give back to CHS, but it is also extensively involved in helping students and the homeless from all around Monterey County.
Carlos Diaz, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s homeless youth liaison, takes care of 865 students, many of whom live in hotels, shelters, or cars, or under bridges. These students still attend school, but often lack basic necessities and find it difficult to be able to make it to school.
“His primary responsibility is to make sure that these kids are able to go to school,” says Teuta Yengst, executive director of Yellow Brick Road. “The Yellow Brick Road puts aside clothes that are unsellable to help him with anything he needs to help the children. We have many outreach programs that we collaborate with across the county.”
People from as far as Prunedale drive to the Yellow Brick Road to make their donations, and the benefit shop is fortunate to have more than 80 volunteers ranging from ages of 30 to 90, according to Yengst. Every week, a representative from Martin Luther King Junior School in Seaside drives to the shop to pick up gently used books.
“I have never worked in an organization like this before,” says Yengst, who has worked for various nonprofits in the past. “This is much more than a thrift store.”
With the help of generous donors and volunteers, the Yellow Brick Road is able to help hundreds across the county who are in need.
“We appreciate all the donations and all the volunteers so much,” adds Mar Seidel, board president for the organization.
The Yellow Brick Road moniker was inspired by the “Wizard of Oz” because whatever is desired can be found, whether that is precious porcelain or books for a growing school library, Clayton says.
If you are a student interested in applying to the Yellow Brick Road College Scholarship, applications are currently being taken. The deadline is April 9, and students can find more information about the scholarship on the Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop website or email Betsy Conron at email@example.com.