Susanna Twaite had a dream not many would dream — homeless people helping other homeless people.
She saw that dream become reality when, in 2015, she founded Wrap the Kids, an official nonprofit with a small space in North Long Beach and a group of volunteers who are mostly homeless, who make quilts for others living on the streets.
But earlier this year, Wrap The Kids closed its doors.
Twaite has been diagnosed with colon cancer that has spread to other organs, the nonprofit’s bank balance is zero and the office on Artesia Boulevard will be cleared out in the coming week.
“I start chemo next week,” Twaite said on the way to her parents’ home after another doctor’s appointment. “They say that will give me a little more time. I’m staying at Mom’s home in Garden Grove. They have a caretaker and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Twaite, 63, has already had a colostomy and has a catheter connected to her liver. Once a big woman, Twaite said, she now weighs 144 pounds. The cancer is considered terminal.
“I’m just skin, wrinkles and bones,” she said.
Wrap The Kids came together in early 2015. Twaite had been sewing quilts, primarily because she couldn’t get a job after a series of drug convictions. But, she said, she really wanted to give the quilts away to those who needed them.
“I couldn’t get a job,” she said in a 2016 story. “My roommate got me a sewing machine, and I started making and selling quilts.”
So Twaite gathered some of her friends, who were mostly homeless, and organized them into a volunteer force. The quilts remained a centerpiece — hence the name “Wrap The Kids” — but the group quickly expanded to helping out with neighborhood cleanups and other events.
By 2016, the group had found a space with access to electricity so they could set up sewing machines to make quilts. With an address, they were able to file for and receive legal nonprofit status, and started adding more events.
Then in 2018, they were offered the 400-square-foot space at 297 E. Artesia Blvd. The back of the windowless room was filled with material and sewing machines were set up. Soon, Twaite said, the office became a gathering place as well as a workshop.
Wrap The Kids began hosting holiday giveaways on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, even adding a Santa Claus in recent years.
But the nonprofit sometimes needed to host fundraisers and ask for donations to pay the rent and utilities.
In a 2019 interview, Twaite cried while describing her organization’s financial state.
“There are times I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the rent, and the thought of losing it is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s amazing the generosity and the money that has come in at the right moment to save it.”
But no more.
When Twaite went into the hospital about six weeks ago, the nonprofit’s doors closed. And, she said last week, it’s going to stay that way.
“We had a good seven and a half years,” Twaite said. “We had volunteers coming in all day. We still had 20 or so. It was a good group of people.”
When asked if some of the other volunteers couldn’t keep the nonprofit going, Twaite hesitated.
“Most of them are homeless,” she finally said. “They don’t have the money. We’re out of money. We had to close.”
Twaite said she will try to sell whatever is left in the office soon, but that the date would depend on her medical appointments. To find out more, call 562-358-0059.
“I hope the chemo will help,” Twaite said. “The doctors said we’re going after it aggressively. That will buy me a little more time.”
Source: Orange County Register