As she volunteered as a pricer in the pricing warehouse, she realized The Caring Place could help her make her house a home again. Trena was on a tight budget as her previous relationship had also destroyed her credit, but through the years has replaced items to her taste. Dishes, housewares, decor, and clothing were all purchased at The Caring Place at affordable prices.
In an effort to be more energy efficient throughout our buildings, The Caring Place hoped for automatic doors that provided a better barrier between our indoor and outdoor space. Our old, floppy and cumbersome doors were not cutting it. Therese and Carlos made that dream a reality.
Like many of us, I have a work history in retail that no longer fits on my professional resume. Although those jobs no longer fit on my list of experiences, I will never overlook the valuable skills I learned in those jobs.
Now a longtime active volunteer, Isaac was initially made familiar with The Caring Place over 17 years ago through his neighbor, Doris Kromer, who was one of The Caring Place’s founders.
“Spare Change for Change.” That’s what the little boxes that rest on our cash register wrap at the front of the store read. That means if you pay in cash and receive change back, you are welcome to place it in the red box.
Carol’s favorite thing about being a part of The Caring Place is simple: “Of course, I love the people. I like working with books. That pretty much sums it up.”
Community volunteering means a lot to Kim. It is one of the ways she addresses Social Justice in her community. If you glance at Kim’s arm you’ll see a stack of books tattooed there. The books are titled Science, Art, Literature, History, and Poetry. These are areas of knowledge that Kim is most interested in which fuel her mind and soul, but the book on the bottom of the stack acting as the foundation is titled, Social Justice. She shared that the idea of community and being connected to the community through volunteering was powerful for her.
“I want to tell anyone having a rough time, that there is help out there. All you have to do is ask. Keep your head up. I was a victim, but I never felt that should determine who I am. I am more than that. I am a strong mom and have come a long way.”
On her sales, Teri noted, “Back in 2020, I had given everything I could to people I knew already, so I had to get creative. I knew I could sell them for cheap and donate the money. And, especially at the time, I knew there was a need for food, clothing—for basic stuff—because so many were out of work.” To respond to this great need in our community and her own need to pare down her overflowing yard, Teri had her first plant sale in the Spring of 2020, not knowing if it would do well. In true pandemic fashion, Teri put the plants out with a can and a sign that read “Plant Sale. Benefits The Caring Place.” It was an honor system; put your money in the can and take your plant. The Setup proved effective, as she made a couple of hundred dollars. People, receptive to the cause, often added more to the can. Happy with the first turnout, Teri said, “Well, okay, that’s good. It’s something I enjoy doing, and people enjoy buying.”
A few weeks ago, I did not know much about The Caring Place beyond some faint recall of kind faces and overflowing boxes from sporadic trips through the donations drive-through when I was a kid. As a Georgetown native, current resident, and Southwestern student, I generally knew The Caring Place had a significant, lasting presence in our community. I generally knew it was a place that lived up to its name and cared in various and necessary ways. Because of this, when Southwestern posted an opportunity for a summer internship here, I excitedly pursued it. Interested in nonprofit work, education, and finding stories, I knew there was much to tell and much to learn. Before beginning, I merely knew the facts: The Caring Place takes donations, has a thrift store, offers food services, etc. Without meeting the people, without further experiencing the place, I did not understand all that meant. Before feeling it myself, I did not fully understand The Caring Place’s extent of care.
Despite being a busy Social Work student and now living in Austin, Patricia prioritizes volunteering in The Caring Place’s Food Pantry. Every Friday, she makes the trip to The Caring Place to stock shelves and assist shoppers. She says, “Even though it’s a little more of a drive, it’s worth it.” Volunteering has always been worth it to Patricia and an essential part of her life since she was 12 or 13. “I’ve always volunteered at places: food pantries, animal shelters, senior homes, etc. I grew up in a tough situation, but no matter how bad our situation was, there were always people to help us. We always tried to help back.” When Patricia moved to Texas a couple of years ago and was looking for a place to “help back,” she saw that The Caring Place not only had a Food Pantry but also had Programs and Services and thrift stores. Impressed with the breadth of the operation, Patricia said, “It had so many options and seemed like a great place to get involved. I don’t even think I went anywhere else. I immediately learned about The Caring Place and said, ‘yeah, that’s it’ and started.”
At The Caring Place, it is a constant moving puzzle to figure out not only what donated items are, but also what they should be priced at and where they should go. Michelle, describing her job, said, “I do mostly intake of donations. I do pricing. I also take care of the greeting cards, and we do a lot of greeting cards and paper things. It’s a lot of packaging and putting things together—stuff like that. Basically, I’ll do anything and everything that needs to be done that day.” In other words, Michelle is one of the dedicated solvers of the continuous The Caring Place puzzle.
Rosemary is a prime example of why being at The Caring Place is so fun. For the last ten years, she has contributed to the lively atmosphere as a volunteer pricing purses, hats, and clothes. I assume much of this time involved laughing and joking because just about our whole conversation did! Rosemary said she initially got involved at The Caring Place because she had retired and was getting bored. The Caring Place ensures she is not bored, and she is one of the individuals that ensures The Caring Place is not boring!
As I sat down at the linen station in the warehouse to visit with Linda Cole, a volunteer at The Caring Place since 2010, I immediately realized how terrible I’d be at her job. I am convinced the world is divided into people who can fold a fitted sheet and those who cannot. I am the latter. Or perhaps there is a third category: those who become proficient at folding fitted sheets after over ten years of doing so. In this category, there is Linda. “I’m not that good at it either. Or wasn’t. But it’s been a while, a long time. And I’ve always done this same job. Initially, I didn’t want to. But then you make friends and you keep going.” Linda explained how she initially planned to volunteer in the Food Pantry, but, at the time, volunteers were needed in the linen department. Linda started with linens and stuck with linens because she said, “You gotta have linens, let’s face it! Everybody needs linens, so there you go.” Laughing, Linda added, “Plus, nothing terrible ever happens with the linens.” I guess this is true, so long as you don’t find bins of fitted sheets terrifying.
Anyone familiar with The Caring Place has likely seen and been impressed by the dedication and kindness of the staff and volunteers. That’s why, as I sat down with Betty Miller at her station filled with purses and hats to discuss her experience as a longtime volunteer but as possibly one of the longest active volunteers, I felt kind of silly to begin by asking the obvious, “So, how long have you been volunteering here?” I did, however, ask a version of this to hear the impressive number of 33 from the woman herself. Betty began our discussion laughing and showed me her 30-year pin that she received “oh, a few years ago.” This means that since the early days of The Caring Place, Betty has been working to sort, inspect, price, and put out shoes, purses, and hats in the stores. While I’m sure she has worn many hats throughout her life, with such commitment to The Caring Place, one “hat” has undoubtedly become and still is hats.