My Community Service Experience | Teen Ink

My Community Service Experience

July 18, 2008
By Anonymous

I chose to do my Community Service project at the Erie City Mission Thrifty Shopper. I chose this place because I heard the City Mission was a great place to volunteer and when I talked to the volunteer coordinator, she informed me of this store and it’s location, which was very close to my house.
The City Mission has been around for close to 50 years feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the poor, and rehabilitating men. The store itself is generally new, but it sells clothes, furniture, and other necessities and odds and ends, or “brick-brack,” as they call it. The general population that I worked with was just the local people. They weren’t necessarily needy or poor; they just wanted to get decent items for a very low price.
This organization takes in donations of any sort and sells them to their customer’s for a very cheap price. Most of their funds go towards the Erie City Mission helping fund them to feed the needy, rehabilitate men, pay for three meals a day for the hungry, and any other programs the City Mission holds.
My general duties at this organization was to sort through the donations, rack clothing to be put on the floor, put the clothes on the floor, and bag purchased items. I also helped with some window displays, cleaned, and helped the customers needing assistance as much as I could.
There were many things I liked about this experience. First off, the people that ran this store were awesome. They all had great personalities and made the experience what it was. Also, I came into this place thinking it was going to be just another thrift shop. When I walked in, I saw furniture and other items that I really liked. The reason this is important is because I am starting to look for my own apartment and I was worried about where I was going to come up with the money to get all the things to furnish this apartment. Now, I know exactly where I’m going and a rough estimate of what I will spend and it’s nothing compared to retail!
There was nothing that I really didn’t like about this experience. Some things I could say I didn’t “favor” was sorting through hundreds of garbage bags of donations clothes, getting finished with them, and then having more donations come in to be sorted.
My strengths at this organization was dealing with the people. I am great with customer service and customer interaction, usually in a restaurant setting, but in retail it’s just the same. I loved helping the customers put together outfits for an upcoming wedding, anniversary, etc. It was almost as if I went to the mall with a friend to help them pick out an outfit. My weaknesses at this organization was staying busy at dead times. When there’s no customers coming in, which was quite often at times, and no donations to sort, it was really easy just to kick back on the couches with the employees and relax. Although the employees were doing it as well, I sometimes felt as if there was something I could be doing.
My best experience during my community service was the knowledge I gained. Like I stated before, I am planning on getting a new apartment soon and one of the main things holding me back was furnishing this apartment. I had gone to numerous furniture stores and compared prices and all of them were out of my budget. I know EXACTLY where I will be going once I get this apartment now. Also, going into this experience, I didn’t like the thought of already-used furniture. I never looked at any second hand stores or furnished apartments because the thought of already used furniture kind of grossed me out. I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know who had the furniture prior or what they did on this furniture. All, or at least a large majority, of the furniture I came across were very nicely taken care of and in very decent condition. Granted, I still didn’t know who owned it prior or what they did on it- I didn’t care. It was in awesome condition for a very low price. For example, I picked out a living room couch set, a TV stand, a kitchen table, end tables for the living room, and other necessities for an apartment, and wouldn’t be paying more than $600-$700. That’s the price of some couches alone retail! On the other hand, I can’t really say I had a “worst” experience. Like I said earlier, sorting through what seemed to be hundreds of donations weren’t fun. Mainly because the whole store was air conditioned, expect for the back. So some of the employees and myself would be sitting in a 100-degree room for hours sorting through clothes.
I learned a lot in this experience. First of all, I learned that community service isn’t as boring and unnecessary, for a lack of better words. I put off this community service project until the end because I really didn’t want to do it and now, I wish I would of done it earlier. I think if I would have gone to a place to volunteer and didn’t enjoy it, I would still have the same mindset, but this place was perfect for me. It was laid-back, fun, and almost felt as if I had a second job. Also, I learned a lot about thrift stores. Instead of going to Walmart for every little thing, I am now going to stop at this thrift store to see if they have what I need. I even bought some clothes while I was there, which I never thought I would do.
I do feel this community service is vital, especially to organizations such as this one. Since all their items are donations and they sell them at cheap prices, they can’t afford to pay fifty employees. Therefore, they strive for volunteers to come in and just do the sorting and cleaning. Also, all their funds go to the Erie City Mission, and it helps pay for all the services the Mission provides. Without the funds from the multiple stores, and monetary donations they wouldn’t be able to house the homeless, feed the hungry three times a day, provide rehabilitation classes for troubled men, and all the other services.
I would, and have, recommend this store to other students. In fact, one of my friends just recently told me she has to do court-ordered community service, and I gave her the name and number of the store and the volunteer coordinator. I would do this because many of my friends and people I have came in contact with feel the same way I did before this experience. They don’t want to do community service and they feel like it’s a waste of time. Now, I feel if you choose the right place to do your community service, it’s definitely not a waste of time. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s almost as if it’s a hobby or another job. Therefore, I recommend this place because I feel anybody would enjoy this place to do their community service.

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