Volunteer Spotlight Lydia Petrovic

Lydia Petrovic is one of our founding Advisory Council members and Event Chair; she has become an integral part of our Launch Party. Her enthusiasm, “go getter” work style, and passion for achieving our Mission is why we chose to highlight her for the month of August!

Q: What initially drew you to Simply the Basics?

A: I met the founder, Meghan Freebeck, at an SF Business Times “Bizwomen” networking event in January, and was immediately blown away by her spirit and passion for social impact. When she told me about the unique and impactful work she’s been doing at Simply The Basics, it resonated with me right away. Joining the Advisory Board was a no-brainer. 

Q: Which Simply the Basics program do you feel the most passionately about; why?

A: The Hygiene Bank is a truly unique program that I feel really strongly about. It’s really surprising when you think that there is no analogous comprehensive health & hygiene system in place like this anywhere in the US. Unfettered access to basic hygiene products – this is long overdue and sorely needed.

Q: If you could say one thing to all of the donors and supporters of Simply the Basics, what would it be?

A: One of the things I’ve found about nonprofits is that it’s easy to be emotionally touched by the mission, but harder to believe that a 501(c)(3) could actually boast streamlined operations & savvy personnel. I don’t worry about that with Simply The Basics. Meghan combines a powerful vision with solid business acumen, and has populated her founding board with talented professionals who represent diverse industries in the SF Bay Area. I truly do believe that her model can and will be scaled throughout the US to have a huge, measurable impact on homeless health.

Q: What personal hygiene product could you not live without?

A: Tampons. Or these days, THINX underwear. To those who don’t menstruate, I’m not sure if I can adequately convey how frequent once a month feels. I have to remind myself what a privilege and a luxury it is to have the resources to properly manage a period.

Q: You spend a lot of time traveling. How have our world travels influenced your desire to give back to the community?

A: Actually, of all the places in the world I’ve traveled, nowhere does the sight of abject poverty and the apparent divide between the haves & have-nots affect me more than it does when I come home to San Francisco. To be honest, “voluntourism” abroad has never appealed to me much because I think there is so much work to be done in our own backyard.

Q: Who is someone that you admire and why? (living or dead, personal or famous).

A: I have tremendous respect for a friend and colleague of mine, Marti Grimminck. She’s Co-Founder of International Connector, a consultancy comprised of diverse Millennial thought leaders from around the globe. She is really adept at harnessing the power of her network for good, and spends much of her time lifting up other professional women in her life. I’ve learned a lot from her about the kind of life I want to have the kind of person I want to be in the workplace.

Q: If you were not working in your current job, what would you likely be doing? (Dream job, no limits!)

I dream of doing more “big picture” work at an organization that empowers girls and women. I would love to work at a place like THINX, Clue, or OMGYes, where creativity and innovation are used to tackle the more “taboo” issues that women face.

Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?

A: I love to whistle, much to the chagrin of my family members growing up. It sounds like a weird thing to brag about, but I actually used to be pretty good. I once played the role of the Nightingale in “Once Upon A Mattress” because nobody else could hit the high notes.

Q: Are there any particular moments in your life that you can point to as being influential in your desire to give back to the community?

A: Not so long ago I was on my way to kill time before a movie near Downtown Oakland. A woman calmly approached me and said she needed to reach her $18 daily goal for her family, shelter. I hate to admit it, but I lied and said I didn't have cash, even though I knew I had $5 in my wallet. She pointed up the street and asked if there was any way I could get cash back. I said I wasn't planning to spend any money tonight -- not quite true, either.

She said I (maybe meaning we, collectively, as a community) didn't understand, that we had shelter over our heads. That she had been assaulted recently. That we had to take care of each other. She needed it for her family. I said I was really sorry but still walked away. I heard her say after me, "Not sorry enough." 

I walked for a few more blocks and felt a lot of shame for continuing with my bourgeois night at Lost & Found, or the New Parkway, or wherever makes you feel hip and irritated at the same time.

It made me think about my own hypocrisy. That I volunteer, sure, and yet when confronted with this purely simple and desperate request, I still said no – perhaps simply because it surprised me and therefore wasn’t on my terms?

I turned back and ran to find her. I put the $5 in her hand, involuntarily started to cry and said I was sorry. She gave me a big hug, a really good hug, said we're all living with stress and that she thought she saw something of the sort in me. We talked. She gave me another hug, pressed my hand repeatedly and said if I ever needed to vent she’d be there for me. If I needed to vent. Can you imagine?

“We have to take care of each other.” I’m still thinking about this night all the time.