The places where I most love to volunteer are the thrift stores that support @The Caring Place - Georgetown, Texas, a community-based organization located north of Austin. The Caring Place provides assistance to families and individuals in need– including food, clothing, housing, financial assistance, transportation, and case management services. It’s an incredible organization powered by hundreds of volunteers.
Their two thrift stores are seriously the best in Texas, but I spend most of my volunteer time at Second Helping, located on Williams Drive in Georgetown. This place is not your ordinary thrift store. We sell vintage items, gifts, home furnishings, and collectibles. Every single item in the store is donated and all proceeds go back to the community. We have sold everything from old mason jars full of sewing scraps to Baccarat crystal, to barely used furniture, and original paintings. When I was a teacher I outfitted most of my classroom from the stores and my living room features a Phillip Starck ghost chair I purchased for a whopping $25.
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. Customer service is of course the big one, but so are the basic skills I learned in merchandising, textiles and sewing, inventory, and interior design.
I love having the opportunity to put those skills to work when I’m helping customers or merchandising and making our donated items look like must-have pieces. Sometimes I get to put my academic research skills to use when helping our manager look up vintage items to find prices for unique collectibles. At other times, I’m cashiering and boxing up fantastic finds for happy people.
Several years ago I was working full-time as a teacher, parenting, and attending grad school, but you could still find me at Second Helping on most Saturdays because it was so much fun to be there. Working in the store was a great way to reset after a long week and I often went home cheerful and energized.
Today, we still see many of the same regular customers and it’s always great to meet new ones. They leave our store happy with their finds and they know they’re “shopping for good”, as we like to say. Those first jobs in retail were hard, my feet ached, and the pay was excruciatingly low, but I’m so glad I learned things that help me give back to my community in such an amazing way. Please come see us if you're ever in the area, and if you're up for it, please sign up to volunteer.
Check out The Caring Place's website to see all the good they do.