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 beads and supplies at an 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 too!’ 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 them to look in the back of my car. It usually drew other people around. I made a few thousand dollars that summer. Mom was ecstatic! It motivated her to expand the variety of jewelry she created. She spent a small fortune on supplies. I asked a friend who is a graphic artist to help me with pamphlets and cards. I had signs made. What we couldn’t get donated we paid for. To this day we can say that 100% of the money raised has gone straight to FOTCOH. That was the beginning of Rena’s Beads.
Through the years I have established many events where we sold the jewelry. With the support of family and friends we have set up shop at galleries, churches, wine bars, friends’ homes, public, and private events, you name it, we’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. She would often get inspiration for her designs from TV. But those designs weren’t really true to the quality of her materials or her own creative ideas. She had a real gift for making beautiful jewelry, and the most generous heart. When asked about why she worked so hard, she would reply, “I do it for the Haitian children.”
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.