A while back, I was exploring to find out what my next adventure would be in life. Not accustomed to having so much downtime, I researched various volunteer opportunities that might help to keep be busy. After making my list, I settled on the Dress for Success Program. I figured that my experience in retailing coupled with my Mental Health Degree, would make me the perfect candidate to volunteer in their program. I had the acquired skills needed to work with women that were being fitted for their first interview outfit and struggling with self-esteem and moving forward in life.
At the time, they didn’t need someone to work with women being dressed in their interview outfits. However, they did suggest that they needed assistance in their consignment boutique. I was disappointed when I found out that there were no openings to work with women. I was convinced that it was essential for me to utilize my social work skills. Despite my disappointment, I began to volunteer my time at the boutique.
Initially, they placed me in the bargain basement, where all the pieces of clothing were a few dollars. The manager asked me to help clean up the basement and attempt to do some displays. I got busy working on the displays behind the desk. Trust me, this job was not easy. Only odds and ends were left, and that didn’t lend itself to an appealing display. The time flew by and the next time I looked at my watch, it was time to leave.
When I walked in the following week, everyone was excited to see me. They raved about the job I had done down in the basement and asked me to do some displays on the main floor. They wanted to change the look behind the desk, and so I went to work. I studied the floor, searching for a possible theme for the display and pieces of clothing that stood out. A brightly colored scarf became my inspiration for the display. I worked intensely to coordinate pieces that would complete my creation. Hours flew by like minutes as I finished the display and stood back to survey my work.
I felt a mixture of pride, excitement and surprise as I stared at the wall. The thing is, I enjoyed the way the other volunteers and employees fawned over my display, but I really didn’t need the other’s appreciation. What I mean is this: I KNEW it was really good! Their compliments were just icing on the cake for me. Me feeling good about me was what I really needed.
When I walked out that day, I remember looking up at the bright sun and thinking about how great I felt. This experience had taught me something valuable. I realized I was creative, talented and passionate about merchandising. I had not used these skills since my days in retail operations. The time flew by for me because I loved what I was doing. It was a reminder that I had a number of skills I was not utilizing— I just needed to rediscover them. This revelation couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s a given that I did a good deed by donating my time to a worthy program. That said, what did volunteering give to me? It gave me the opportunity to expand my skill base and learn more about myself. It pushed me outside my comfort zone and stretched me to use my talents. It was a great confidence booster!
So girlfriend, I encourage you to volunteer. Find something you are passionate about and go for it. I promise, not only can you touch someone else’s life but you can also do wonders for y