For many years, Rena Wainscott made beaded jewelry to help support FOTCOH’s work in Haiti. Rena, who is the mother of Joy Doran, a long time supporter of FOTCOH, and the mother-in-law of FOTCOH volunteer and oral surgeon, Dr. Steve Doran, began creating beautiful necklaces that Joy and Rena sold and then donated 100% of the proceeds to support the efforts of FOTCOH.
The Start of Rena’s Beads
Joy describes how she and Rena worked together to help support the work that FOTCOH was doing in Haiti:
“I visited my mom in Tucson years ago where she was living at the time, and where she would buy the beads and findings at a huge outlet gem mall. She had around 50 necklaces and told me to take them home to give to my friends. I said ‘Mom! I don’t have 50 friends to give necklaces to!’ It was hilarious! But I did take the necklaces and put them in the back of my SUV. I decided to start selling them for FOTCOH that summer. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. Everywhere I saw friends (Yoga class, parties, festivals), I’d invite my friends to look in the back of my car. It usually drew other people around. I made a few thousand dollars that summer and that was the beginning of Rena’s Beads. I asked a friend who is a graphic artist to help me with a pamphlet and cards. I had signs made. What I couldn’t get donated I paid for myself. To this day we can say that 100% of the money raised has gone straight to FOTCOH!
Through the years I have created many events where we have sold the jewelry. With the support of friends we have set up shop at galleries, churches, wine bars, friends’ homes, public, and private events, you name it, I’ve been there! This work does not come naturally to me but because I believe so strongly in the mission I stand behind the efforts of my mother and the people it serves. Over the years, more than $50,000 has been contributed to FOTCOH because of Rena’s Beads.
Mom used only the finest precious and semi-precious gems and stones. Her chains were imported white and yellow gold from Italy. Ceramic beads from the Netherlands. Polish crystal beads. She made mostly necklaces and earrings, and just a few bracelets. Over the years I have helped with the designs. Since she learned her skills in a retirement community her necklaces reflected that at first. Then, she would get ideas from TV. But those designs weren’t really true to the purity of her materials. We would spend a lot of time talking about ‘what my friends would wear’. What I would wear.”
Rena was hardworking. She and her husband, Don, started a veterinary practice, Town and Country Animal Hospital, in Normal, Illinois in 1958. Rena managed and ran the practice. As such, it became a family affair. The children were also involved in the operation and can with great pride, list ‘Poop Scooper’ on their resumes. Rena was a most integral part of the success of that thriving practice. After 38 years, they retired to Tucson, Arizona.
Rena was adventurous. The family would often travel to the boundary waters of Canada to canoe camp, portaging from lake to lake. Much was learned about life skills and teamwork and good, clean fun. After retirement, she and Don traveled overseas and enjoyed numerous sailing trips to the Caribbean. But the family’s greatest adventure was building a cabin in northern Colorado where Rena and Don would summer for most of their retired years. Many people reading this will recall waking up to the smell of Rena’s Swedish pancakes while visiting them in that pristine location in the mountains.
Rena was fun loving. She creatively surrounded her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with games, crafts, and joy. She was famous among her grandchildren for her strawberry milk, root beer floats, and awesome movie collection (most notably 80’s classics such as Twins and Willow). Family gatherings often included raucous games of charades, with Rena in charge of creating the prompts so that all could play.
Rena was welcoming of all. Those who knew her probably had the pleasure of eating her lovingly prepared food. She derived great enjoyment from hosting get-togethers for others. With her grace and quiet reserve, she welcomed friends and family into the home she shared with her husband, Don, until his death in 2012.
The many friends from overseas who came to live with the Wainscott’s became family. The house was always filled with people, food, fun, animals, and music, with Rena orchestrating everything at the center.
In 1974, the Wainscott’s hosted an AFS student from South Vietnam: Jenny Le. When South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese the following year, Rena and Don would not rest until they found Jenny and her family and brought them to their home. They formally adopted Jenny (Ngoan) and her brother Hiep and found American sponsors for their family and around 120 other Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. Rena’s grit, determination, and sheer love made this possible.
Rena was generous. After Don passed away in 2012, Rena joined a jewelry making class in her retirement community in Tucson. She became so expert and prolific that she created a charity called Rena’s Beads. In the last 6 years of her life, she beautifully crafted beaded jewelry, sold it, and donated over tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds to an organization very dear to her, Friends of the Children of Haiti.
Rena Maree Johnson Wainscott, 86, peacefully passed away surrounded by her children in a home full of love on Saturday, October 13, 2018, in Downers Grove, Illinois. During her life, and still today, Rena was loved by many, including the FOTCOH family. We are endlessly greatly for her dedication to FOTCOH, and she will be remembered greatly for everything that she has done to help the people of Haiti.
How can you get involved in helping children and adults in Haiti?
You can help us provide life-saving support to the Haitian population in and around our medical clinic in a few different ways.
One way is by becoming a volunteer. Volunteer teams from the U.S. travel to Haiti to provide support for the most impoverished people in Haiti, who otherwise would have no access to medical care or wellness education of any kind. Team volunteers work side-by-side with experienced FOTCOH personnel, treating people who otherwise will go without any medical attention. All volunteers return home with a sense of experience and satisfaction unmatched in other endeavors.
Another way is by donating to FOTCOH. FOTCOH provides life-saving support to over 15,000 Haitian patients every year. We bring doctors, nurses, EMTs, pharmacists and non-medical volunteers to our clinic to triage injuries, treat illness, offer prenatal care, perform major surgery, and offer nutritional support. We also teach WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) practices to educate the Haitian population about the importance of handwashing and clean water use. In doing so, we create economic opportunity by training and employing a Haitian staff. Funds go to purchasing medications, surgical supplies, and supporting our Medika Mamba program for malnourished Haitian children.