Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Rockville, MD
Today shouldn't count as a service project because I had too much fun! It was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time as I was asked to decorate for my service project today!
Those of you who really know me now or knew me way back when, know that Jimmy Carter is one of my "top citizens" of all time! I love so many things about him but mostly the legacy he created with the establishment of Habitat for Humanity, an organization that seeks to provide affordable housing to those in need. In addition to the well-known build projects, Habitat operates several ReStores where they sell discounted home improvement items and use the proceeds to support Habitat for Humanity. Today, I volunteered at the local ReStore on East Gude Drive.
Back in my Don't Think Twice days, Debbie and I went to the ReStore often to donate client's unwanted appliances, building materials, and home furnishings. I had never been beyond the loading dock or privy to the inner workings of the store. Today would be different! Not knowing if I'd be moving furniture, accepting donations, or cleaning up, I dressed in work clothes, had my water bottle and advil handy (and of course my coffee cup), and was raring to go! When I reported for duty, I was greeted, given a list of rules, expectations, and waivers, and watched an orientation video. My trainer handed me a pair of work gloves and apron and was just about to assign me a job when he was stopped by a customer who needed his assistance. My temporary idleness apparently caught the the attention of the regional manager who took me to area where much of the china, crystal, and nic nacs were displayed. She asked me to freshen it up by removing "junkie" items and "pretty up" the area by gathering like-pieces and arranging some nice displays. Could she have made me any happier? This is what I mean about being in the right place at the right time! Does she know that when I add a new dish or nic nac to my house, I obsess until 3am rearranging everything in my house and LOVE it?
For over 4 hours, I did what I love to do - I "prettied up the place". I found missing mates to china and glass sets, I decluttered shelves, arranged things by color and style, talked to customers, and hopefully added value to the store. I had so much fun, I forgot to take my break or end my shift on time. Honestly, I could have stayed longer. The place is huge and has so much stuff!! I think my enthusiasm (or obsession) was apparent when the manager came back to check on me. Trying to lure me back, she expressed her appreciation and interest in my Follow Me To 50 project. It worked as I'm happy to return instead of making this a "one and done!" When decorating counts as a mitzvah (good deed), sign me up!
My Takeaways: (1) First, why do we buy so many brand new things when there is so much to repurpose, restore, and use? Second-hand things aren't always broken, undesirable, or useless. One man's trash is another man's treasure! Throw something in the dishwasher or use a little elbow grease and things are as good as new. This place is a perfect trifecta -- people donate unwanted things, others buy it for a discounted price, AND the money goes to an amazing organization that does amazing things! A win/win/win, right? (2) Many in our community seem to already appreciate this notion as the store was very busy during my shift. Where some of us run instantly to Home Depot to pick up floor tiles or molding, others can't even contemplate making necessary home repairs or improvements without securing discounted materials. (3) The ReStore employs and/or utilizes the help of many people with special needs. There were several men and women with a range of physical, developmental, and intellectual disabilities who were dusting table tops, sweeping the floor, and/or assisting customers. When I went to the break room to collect my personal things, a bank of people were assisting with paperwork and data entry. This is another Win/Win -- the ReStore needs the help (they really do!) and people need to learn skills and spend their time productively. See why I still love Jimmy Carter?! (4) Even decorating can be a public service if done for the right recipient!!