March 17, 2020. Do you remember it? 2 years ago the world changed. We are still here and still going strong, and will continue to be for a very long time. But in 2020, no one knew what was coming. On March 17, we had 43 active volunteers. Like many small businesses, we made the hard decision to shut down for a few weeks, "to flatten the curve".
During that time, about 6 volunteers kept coming, kept working, and kept hoping things would return to normal. With no income, we kept paying our bills, kept giving our monthly donations to several other organizations, and kept hoping for the best. Our storage areas became full to overflowing, as we had product coming in, but nothing going out.
10 Weeks later in May, we were cleared to reopen. We had to change just about every aspect of our business and ministry. Our volunteers numbered about 16 at that point. We reduced our hours, our days open, had to limit the number of people in the store, put up one way signs, had to get a door keeper to count people, scrambled for sanitizer and masks. It was a struggle and a challenge. But our volunteers were amazing, putting in extra time, extra love, and extra patience.
Our customers returned, and brought many new ones with them. Our quiet little shop became rather busy, open to close. People waited outside before we opened, and even when we were at capacity. We put up a tent in the rain. Donations skyrocketed as other shops did not reopen. Like everywhere, masks were an issue. We followed the CDC guidelines. When masks were mandated, we lost volunteers, even some that had been coming while we were shut down. When masks became optional, we gained some old volunteers back, but also lost some. Tough decisions were made everyday with the changes in information and guidelines. But we are still here, we are still helping, we are still blessing. We reopened to $1.00 clothing all the time. While other places had to raise their prices, we listened to the Lord, and lowered ours. Volunteers... Volunteers are the only way we can exist. For us to operate we need 3 types of people. Donors, customers, and volunteers. Each are important, but we can exist for a while without donors, believe it or not. We existed for 10 weeks without customers, but we cannot exist without volunteers. Our volunteers are special people. They give of their time, talents, and treasures daily to help others. Understand if we had to pay everyone needed to make our shop run, we would either have to raise our prices considerably, or shut down. We can do what we do because of volunteers. Because of volunteers we have $1.00 clothing. Because of volunteers, we give away 3500+ coats each year. Because of volunteers we fulfill referrals from dozens of shelters, schools, and social service agencies. Our volunteers are regular people who decided to act on good intentions. Instead of hoping things will get better, they work to change the world, once article of clothing at a time. Some of our volunteers are very young, some have much more life experience. Some are retired, some have barriers to traditional employment. Some work traditional jobs full and part time, but still come help when they can. Some volunteer at several places, because the need is great. We have some military veterans as well. We have tasks for many abilities and interests. Some carry boxes, some need to sit on a chair to tag clothes, some can sort, some can tag, some take out the trash, some clean the restrooms, some shovel snow, some want to work up front cashiering and bagging, some do not want to interact with the public. Some are here a few hours a week, some are here 100 hours a month. If you are willing, and have a clean background, we can find somewhere for you to fit in with us, or can help you find another organization that supports your interests and skill sets. Without volunteers here, and at other places, individuals in need cannot get the assistance they require. The world changed 2 years ago, we changed with it, but need to continue to volunteer and work to make the world better than it was. We are now back to 30+ volunteers. To run efficiently we need that number around 75. Stop in and fill out a volunteer application, either here, or with any of the other wonderful organizations around doing good work. It keeps you active, it keeps you young, and it keeps you happy.