“It’s been a roller coaster, like for every other business, I’m sure.”
Former FabMo Board Chair Holly Welstein can laugh about it now, but early 2020 was anything but easy for the South Bay-based nonprofit.
In February of that year, FabMo had just moved to its new location at 1240 Birchwood Dr #2 in Sunnyvale. Volunteers were working around the clock getting ready for the first public event in the new Sunnyvale space.
“So, we were set up. We had all our merchandise arranged and displayed,” recalled Welstein. “We canceled it the night before. It was like the second weekend in March. I’m not even sure that the shutdown had been announced, when we decided to close it was everything was unfolding in real-time.”
Before they even opened, FabMo was forced to close its doors. The volunteer board members pivoted quickly and used the initial shutdown time to figure out next steps. They started posting some items online, setting up times for drive-thru pick up and figuring out how to safely reopen with masks and social distancing.
FabMo figured out how to safely operate through the pandemic, but COVID has taken its toll on the volunteers.
“We’re still struggling to get as many volunteers as we really feel we need for a whole host of reasons,” said Welstein. “One is the aging of our corps volunteer cadre. I mean, we’re exhausted. I’m 66 and I’m not one of the older ones. We have lots of people in their 70s and even 80s, who are really stalwarts for the last dozen years, and they’ve just aged out. Some of them have their own health issues; some of them have spouses with health issues. Some of them where the virus was something they were taking very, very seriously and they just stayed away.”
The organization also lost one of its most dedicated volunteers earlier this year, co-founder Jonathan Cranch.
“It was an emotional blow to the organization,” said Welstein. “I mean, he was sort of the face of FabMo for many people over time.”
Though Cranch’s presence will be sorely missed, the organization continues to push forward with his mission.
“Our mission remains the same, to keep usable materials out of the landfill,” said Welstein. “The way we do that is by encouraging creative reuse. That’s our mission. And educate and inspire. We want more people to learn about us and come and make use of the materials.
“Our other goal was to have our first employee in 2022 because we’ve been an all-volunteer organization since our founding and we’re too big. We need some stability,” continued Welstein.
The Sunnyvale nonprofit is on the path to making the second goal happen thanks to a grant it received during COVID.