Edit: This article originally appeared on my first website fierygivingtree.com which I’ve since closed.
First volunteer activity of the new year: Wrangling Chaos!
So the back story is that I really wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen. That stands out as an early volunteer memory and I’ve been wanting to get more involved in my community feeding the hungry. However, that didn’t work out. The agency I called had more than enough volunteers at the soup kitchen but stated they were ‘always desperate for volunteers at the thrift store’, so I went for it.
I was told to go in and ask for the manager. The manager was not available but they happily put me to work after confirming I wanted to volunteer versus doing community service. To be honest, it never occurred to me that working at a thrift store could apply to community service (mental notes should I take on a life of crime!).
My first activity was organizing picture frames of which they had a plenitude. My directions were something to the effect of make them look nice with different heights. They warned that there might be broken glass and those would have to be trashed. I was to take these to the front, which quickly translated to ‘out to the trash can’, with a warning to be careful. Mission accomplished, I soon realized I was bleeding, a tiny cut but slightly messy. Once I realized it was not stopping, I sought out a bandage and was mothered by one of the workers who called me ‘baby’. With my fresh bandage, I did my best to consolidated the frames and make it mildly attractive. I consider myself to have a decent eye for design but with a bazillion frames and a small area, there is only so much one can do.
With that task completed, I sought out my next activity, which was only a minor challenge for me. I have lovingly been referred to as a germ-a-phobe (it’s still love through gritted teeth, right?) and have a deep distaste for feet. The perfect task for me then was, of course, bringing out shoes. Ick. I frequent thrift stores, but in over 20 years I’ve only bought two pairs of shoes, and only out of cheapness knowing they’d be used once (and were). So I did my best to match the shoes together and brought out the bin to start placing them. If you ever want to see truly ugly shoes, this is a great job (but as I’ve mentioned, I’m not into feet-things). By the end, I had touched many pairs of shoes and didn’t die, who knew?!
As they were still building the remaining shoe racks needed, I upgraded to putting clothes on the floor, a much preferable task. With no grody things to touch, this still provided a new challenge of constant motion. I do my very best to not waste time so quickly set myself to the task of organizing clothes on the racks to put up. My goal was to hit certain areas of the store instead of going to every section with my armload of clothes. This worked out and I was able to clear off four large racks by myself and two others with another worker.
With that, my day was over. I committed to working four hours on this adventure and left with sore shoulders and feet but having done my part to make the store a bit tidier. This task was different from others in that communication with other volunteers was rather limited. Likewise, I provided virtually no information about myself, I think I gave my name to one person (a fellow worker). The manager was grateful for my help though and lunch was offered upon leaving (although I declined). I’ve set a goal of volunteering 100 hours this year so this will be a great place to catch up on any missing hours. Likewise, some of the clothes were cute. 😀
Benefits of volunteering at a Thrift Store –
- Virtually no training necessary
- Weekend hours available
- Solitary work is possible
- Opportunity to check out *lots* of neat stuff (and I do mean lots – an overwhelming amount even!)
Who you’ll be working with – (definitely will range by location)
- Consistently senior aged men who like to tinker
- Senior aged women
- Those doing community service (range of ages)
Level of commitment necessary – (ranges by location)
- My organization required absolutely none
- Other thrift stores do require training
Have you volunteered before? What were the best and worst aspects of it?