Last year, Ellie Stanley in her tent holding pet rats. (Photo provided by Stanley)
Sandra Lee Childs is a hardworking artist but to a homeless woman and her animals, she’s their “Fairy Pet Godmother.” First she helped pay for vet bills. Now, with her art, she’s seeking to turn a ragged tent into a RV.
In the midst of heavy rainstorms earlier this month, a large branch punctured the tent of homeless woman, Ellie Stanley, collapsing it and destroying some of her possessions. “Luckily,” she says, “we weren’t there cause we could have got seriously injured.” The thirty-one year old Humboldt native camps out illegally with her boyfriend, Trinity, in the Shelter Cove area. After the storm, she posted about the experience on Facebook. She wrote with gratitude that “All our bedding is wet and our tent no longer able to use but we are alive and our pets are alive… .” Still, she’d love to have a home with four walls. Right now, she’s saving money to buy an RV.
Stanley says she loves the area here. “I’ve lived here most of my life. I was born in Fortuna.” Her mother separated from her father and moved away when Ellie was young but Ellie came back. “I’ve been camping in a tent for 9 years.” She found a job that she could get to easily. “I worked in the Inn of the Lost Coast doing housekeeping. I hitchhike most of the time.” But during the slow season she was laid off.
Her employer there says that “she was reliable…she was faithful. She did a good job for us and I hope she comes back.”
Meanwhile though, Stanley struggles to make it. She says she receives food stamps and she gets by as long as nothing goes wrong. But this year has presented a series of bad luck episodes. Her dog, Bentley, was injured. While the Garberville Redway vet was willing to help, Stanley still couldn’t cover the entire cost. That’s when the woman Stanley calls her “Fairy Pet Godmother” stepped in to help. Sandra Lee Childs paid the remainder of the bill.
Bentley (Photo provided by Stanley)
“I had done that kind of thing for a couple of other people,” says Sandra Lee Childs, an artist who splits her time between Humboldt and the Southern California. Childs, an animal lover, told local homeless advocates that “if there comes a person who can’t pay their vet bill, let me know.” Childs says, “There are people who love these animals so much and there are thousands of animals in shelters with no one to love them. I hate to think of people losing their animals they love because they are too poor.”
“I’ve been in situations where I’ve needed help,” Childs says, “and I’m glad I’m in a place where I can help now.”
Ellie Stanley though, had even more problems than a vet bill. Over Thanksgiving, her tent was broken into. She posted about her experiences on Facebook,
After Thanksgiving not so great we have a tweeker that lives near our camp. Stole some food here and there. On Thanksgiving He destroyed our camp. Threw my boy rats down the hillside cannot find them :-[ Luckily the girl rats are ok. The dogs were let free but they are loyal and waited for us to return. Life couldn’t get any [more] hard-core being in a tent out in the woods mountains and its get cold this year!!! Then some Drug addict makes things harder!! Pore pet rats never did anything to anyone! We been crying for a couple hours now!!! I have already been getting depressed with my dads death date close…
Stanley’s father, Daniel, passed away five years ago on December 11th. She says, “If my dad was still alive, I know he would help me.” She believes he would help her find a way to replace her destroyed tent. She does have family willing to lend a hand though. “My aunt sent me a check. What I didn’t have was a bank account.”
Like many homeless, Stanley doesn’t have the basics that make living in a modern world easier. Each basic she doesn’t have, makes it that much harder to get another—a cycle of difficulty that sucks her down. She doesn’t have a post office box (she gets her mail general delivery at Whitethorn) and that means she doesn’t have a permanent address for banking. Thus, it is difficult to have a checking account. Without a checking account, she can’t cash her aunt’s small check. Without the check, she doesn’t have the money to get basic necessities.
Nonetheless, Stanley has managed to put a down payment on a used RV. “One of my dad’s friends,” she explains, “has an RV. He was going to sell it for $3500 but he’s offering it to me for $2000.” She’s put down $600 and hopes to slowly pay off the balance.
Over time, Childs, the “Fairy Pet Godmother,” learned about Stanley’s efforts to keep a roof over her and her pets’ heads. She decided to help. An artist known for realistic sculptures of reptiles, Childs is offering to donate either one of her pots decorated with a lizard or her mermaid creation (see below.) She is hoping that someone will buy one of the sculptures for enough to finish paying for the RV.
“I’m offering this Regal Horned Lizard sculpture on a large Mimbre/Sandee style gourd olla for $1400.” She is also willing to sell another sculpture, a mermaid if someone would prefer that. She’s offering that for $1000. Child’s work appears in two different gallery showings per year. According to her biography, her reptile statues are so realistic that she was approached by “BLM and Game & Fish authorities who believed that she was killing and mounting real reptiles.” However, she creates each creature from polymer clay and hand paints it… She said, “”Almost everyone who sees my sculptures for the first time believes they are real reptiles. A roadrunner actually tried to eat one of my lizards at an Art Show in Death Valley.”
Childs is hoping that her art can turn Stanley’s shattered tent into a dry RV. She says, “I can’t imagine people being so wet and cold…I just want to help [Ellie] get this…She seems like such a good little gal.”
Childs can be reached at email@example.com or call 850-525-9643. Debra Carey is going to handle the money to pay for the RV so any donations could be given directly to her.