LAFAYETTE -- Ariel Vellet doesn't like to be bothered when she is working, especially when putting the finishing touches on her gift bags.

Vellet, one of a group of developmentally disabled volunteers, takes her job very seriously.

Last week at Las Trampas Inc., Vellet's task was to seal white paper bags stocked with hotel-sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion bottles with a staple and greeting card from Las Trampas Inc. -- where Vellet and the others are clients.

The Walnut Creek resident was one of at least a half dozen Las Trampas client volunteers assembling the bags at the nonprofit's center in Lafayette. Las Trampas is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting adults with developmental disabilities through a variety of programs for the past 54 years.

"It's really fun, picking up the shampoo from the hotels and bringing them back here and putting them in bags," said Vellet, 27. "It makes me feel good to know that we are helping other people feel clean."

The gift bags the disabled volunteers put together go to others who also need a helping hand. They are delivered to local charities, including Monument Crisis Center, Shelter Inc. and other social programs in the East Bay.

For its Reuse, Recycle, Repeat program, Las Trampas volunteers pick up donated new, partially used and empty travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion bottles from East Bay hotels.

Clients from Las Trampas clean, refill and package them for the gift bags.


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The program is one of several services that Las Trampas has been offering adults with developmental disabilities since it began in 1958. What began in 1938 as a school for children with developmental disabilities, Las Trampas has since evolved into a nonprofit that provides East Bay residents with developmental disabilities everything from job training skills to independent and semi-independent living.

"A lot of what we do is integrating clients into the community in as many ways as we can," said Ron Kilgore, Las Trampas associate executive director. "We are not here (at Las Trampas) all day. We are in the community."

Integrating clients into the community is a big part of what Las Trampas has done for the past seven decades and the Reuse, Recycle, Repeat program is just one more method, said Eric Rudney, a Las Trampas volunteer and donor for the past 20 years.

Rudney, who owns Rudney Associates a financial advisory and investment management firm, came up with the idea for the recycling program after realizing how the majority of travel-size toiletries offered at hotels go to waste.

Bins are left at participating hotels and housekeeping staff deposits the bottles that are picked up once a month by Las Trampas.

"It was a way to help the environment and to promote Las Trampas and the work it does in the community," said Rudney. "What I didn't realize is the joy the clients get from it. It was one consequence we never planned on. The clients have so much fun and know they are giving back to the community."

Since the program began in 2010, Las Trampas has collected 21,000 bottles from hotels, including the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa and the Claremont Hotel and Spa in Berkeley. The donations have allowed Las Trampas clients to produce and deliver more than 7,000 gift bags.

SHARE THE SPIRIT
The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by this newspaper, benefits nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. To help, clip the coupon accompanying this story or go to https://volunteer.truist.com/vccc/donate. Readers with questions and corporations interested in making large contributions may contact the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, which administers the fund, at 925-472-5760.

For information on Las Trampas Inc., visit http://www.lastrampas.org