On Thursday, September 8, 2011, Virginia Tedrow and Anne Dunham, of the board of directors, visited Claire Small at her retirement home in Walnut Creek. Her generous donations founded the Peninsula Endowment in the late 1960s. She is 95 and in good health. At her suggestion we had lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant and learned more of her story. She and Virginia had both been Recording for the Blind board members and had much catching up to do.
Claire was one of the original volunteers for Recording for the Blind (RFB) when the first studio with one recording booth was set up in a small storefront on Cambridge Avenue in Palo Alto. She had signed up to volunteer because of an article she read in a publication from Castilleja School, an independent school for girls grade 6-12 established in the first decade of the 20th century. Both she and Ray Westman, who established the studio, had attended Castilleja in their youth, although they did not know each other. But it provided the connection.
When Claire’s father died (c. 1970) and left a house at 488 W. Charleston in Palo Alto to Claire, she did not need the house or the money from its sale. One night, in the middle of the night, she decided she would give it to RFB so they could have a bigger and better studio. A fund was also established to take care of the maintenance of the house.
Until November 2009 the house served as the home of the RFB studio, providing space for six recording booths, hosting volunteer recognition events, and serving as a gathering place for countless volunteers who recorded hundreds of thousands of hours of books for blind students.
In 2007 the property was sold to the Palo Alto Housing Corporation. Currently under construction is the Tree House Project which will provided 35 affordable units for households whose occupants work in Palo Alto but cannot afford to live there.
Claire was delighted to hear that her gift is still providing services that would otherwise be unavailable. We plan to go back next year to give her an update.