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Do-Gooder Love

Meeting for Good
Christopher Gardner

Mending furniture at the love shack

By Robert Struckman

IN A LARGE, unromantic warehouse near the marshes in Menlo Park, three women and a man are spending their evening cleaning and repairing furniture for charity. All four volunteers have shown up with a hope, somewhere in the back of their minds, that tonight might be the night for meeting Mr. or Ms. Right. They are members of a new singles service called Meeting for Good, where 100-plus members combine the hunt for love and companionship with volunteerism. Meeting for Good co-founder Sarah Veit thinks she has found a niche: helping people meet not just any old single people, but single people who are kind at heart. Singles who, well, care.

"Tons of people want to volunteer, but it's hard to make the commitment," Veit says. "You know, a lot of places want you for six months on one schedule. So we decided to put the two [dating and volunteerism] together."

Meeting for Good works by sending members a schedule of times and locations for volunteer activities. Eighty people, for instance, received the schedule that listed tonight's New Start Furniture Fund session. Veit counts on four to 10 people showing up to each event. That makes the nonprofit groups happy and randomly connects four to 10 Meeting for Good members.

George, a fortysomething store owner who lives in San Jose, sands a particle-board entertainment center that will go from the New Start warehouse to a needy family. He and two women absently rub the false-wood finish and reminisce about their singles experiences. The consensus is that, even with the plethora of singles services, economic prosperity and activities, the life of a single in Silicon Valley is tough.

Behind a sofa and a row of stuffed chairs, Suzanne, 37, wears rubber gloves and scrubs an end table. She is a veteran of several other "active" singles services, such as outdoor clubs and activity-based services. "I've had a lot of dates," she says, "but no one who is ready to commit. No one who wants to get married."

Suzanne has never been married and wants to be. "I'm very professional, doing my work. I love everyone I work with, but that's separate. I just have a hard time meeting people."

As she talks, she scrubs vigorously at the table until one of her fingers breaks through her rubber glove. "I think that Silicon Valley is a place where a lot of people work and few people have fun. If you're going to school, it's different. Or if you're in a church group, then you can meet people, but it's hard to meet people if you're alone."

Marianne, another attendee, concurs. "It's hard. If you're in a $60 rented cocktail dress, pretty soon, no matter how positive your attitude, you start to feel as if you're coming off superficial," she says. "You start to get depressed."

George is philosophical. "This volunteering isn't so bad. If you don't meet anyone, you still did a good thing." He shrugs his shoulders, motioning to the room of couches, chairs, tables and mattresses. "You can have a hit-or-miss dinner or ... this."

Leaning against the back of a couch, he shares the knowledge he has garnered in the year since his divorce. "The singles game is simple. Put a smile on your face, make yourself available and get out there. It's a numbers game. Eventually you're going to find someone."

George is a member of several singles services, which he says have netted him "tons of dates."

"You know," he says, "there's got to be that attraction. You gotta keep trying, keep bumping into people until you meet someone where there is that attraction."

Wendy, in the throes of divorce after a 25-year marriage, says she did everything "right": got married, stayed at home and raised a family. And here she is, she adds somewhat bitterly, mid-40s and single.

Marianne understands, but tells a different story. "I did all the wrong things," she says of her marriage. "I didn't lie about the fact that I didn't want kids. I was always in the doghouse. I was born in the doghouse." Which is perhaps why, she says, divorce wasn't hard. "I had always been the primary breadwinner. I brought home the bacon and fried it, too."

There is a pause while the group considers all this. Suzanne finishes her work, wipes her hands and prepares to leave. As the door closes behind Suzanne, George stands up from the couch, motorcycle helmet in hand. One by one, the remaining three head separately for the door, uttering polite goodbyes.

An hour and a half has elapsed since the singles night of Meeting for Good began, and six pieces of furniture are ready for distribution into the living rooms of people who can't otherwise afford them. And with or without that special someone, they've done their hearts good.

Meeting for Good can be reached at (650) 949-4611.

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From the Sept. 4-10, 1997 issue of Metro.

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