Cradles to Crayons’ Michal Smith’s 5 Favorites
The West Conshohocken chapter’s executive director shares her favorite things on the Main Line and beyond.
For six years, Michal Smith has been executive director of the West Conshohocken chapter of the nonprofit Cradles to Crayons, which helps 70,000 local families a year, providing kids with new or gently used clothing, shoes, and school supplies.
1. RUNNING ALONG THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER.
“It’s my meditation.”
2. BAR HYGGE.
“It means a convivial place. One of the owner’s beers is named after his daughter, Phoebe.”
From Left: Schuykill River, Bar Hygge
3. RACE STREET PIER PARK.
“It’s just phenomenal.”
4. BONNIE RAITT.
“I also love baroque opera.”
5. OUTBOUND STATION.
“As an executive director, I know a lot of coffee shops. This is a great place to meet in Conshohocken.”
From left: Race Street Peir, Bonnie Rait
MLT: What is Cradles to Crayons all about?
MS: It has a two-fold mission. We provide basic everyday essentials to kids in low-income situations in the five-county region—Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties, and a little of Southern New Jersey. We can engage kids as young as 6; we’re really instrumental in building a platform of philanthropy in a tangible way. People start to think about how they can help in much more concrete terms.
MLT: What made you choose this line of work?
MS: I’d been working in educational enrichment for a number of years before I came to Cradles to Crayons, but this is my first real excursion into helping younger people. Cradles to Crayons came to Philadelphia from Boston in 2007. I just thought it was one of the neatest models, where you’re collecting new and gently used items from families and individuals who perhaps have grown out of them or no longer need them. Kids get the right clothing, the right school supplies, the right reading books.
MLT: How can we contribute?
MS: You can volunteer in any number of ways. Collecting children’s clothing from friends, families, your own children, running drives in your school or corporation, or clearing out your cupboards and bringing the items to our warehouse in West Conshohocken. We also have to purchase things—new socks, underwear. We have a retirement home that takes our Barbies and matches them with a few outfits and shoes, so they come back with their hair combed and the accessories in a bag.
MLT: What do you find most rewarding about this work?
MS: It’s the individual in the community that gives back—particularly some of the young kids who come in carrying a favorite toy who say, “This is my favorite toy, but I know there are kids who will enjoy this and benefit from it, so I want to share it.” Young moms talk about how this was such a boost to them when they were homeless and in a tough place. Quite often, they’re now bringing clothing to us from their children, because they now have a home and a job. The kids are in school, they’re in a better place, and they can now give back to us.