Adventures in Volunteering: Northwest Children's Outreach
8/21/2010 11:20:00 AM
We have this amazing nonprofit called Northwest Children's Outreach here in Oregon. They are this amazing nonprofit that was started by just a normal lady, like you and me.
She saw a need and she realized a way to fill it. I think the history is that the founder had a friend who worked in a social service agency and the friend was telling her about a family whose children only had 2 sets of clothes and the baby was always in dirty diapers because diapers are so expensive the parents had to try to make them last. So the founder found a friend with kids similar ages, recycled some of their gently used clothing and then purchased some diapers.
And now, she has coordinated seven warehouses full of donations that go out to hundreds of kids in need every week! It's just an amazing place...and this all started from just one person reaching out and helping one other person.
The warehouses are all in donated space, which in itself is amazing because property is expensive - but there are some really good-hearted people out there who are donating their realty (though I suppose they do get a nice tax writeoff...).
The clothes are all very neatly arranged in rows and rows and rows of bins, all the girls bins are on the right half of the building, the boys are all on the left. Each bin is for a size and an item, so Girls Size 6 Tops, Boys Size 10 Pants. It could not be more organized if Martha Stewart herself had come in and set it up. Winter clothes are kept in a loft in the warehouse and there is a group of big, burly men who come in at the end of summer and switch out the summer bins downstairs with the winter bins upstairs.
Depending on what day you volunteer, you'll have a different job. Sometimes you end up sorting clothes into the right sizes and refilling the bins. Sometimes you'll be sorting summer clothes to be rotated out to make way for fall clothes. This is a great chance for you to practice folding clothes, because it's a LOT of folding clothes. Beneficial and necessary...but a LOT of folding clothes.
But on Tuesdays - it's way more fun.
Tuesday nights is the time when orders are filled for different churches, nonprofits, social services. There are large super-size plastic bags with a child's name and age and sizes on a tag. You pick a bag and then you go to work filling it. Every bag gets the same items: 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of underwear, 2 socks, 2 shoes, a sweatshirt or coat, a hat or scarf, 4 books, 2 stuffed animals, 2 toys.
It's a really fun event for kids to do because they get to pick out outfits and select just the right toys or books..which can be a time-consuming event really...there are a LOT of toys/books/animals to look through and you want your bag to have the best possible options.
The Northwest Children's Outreach centers are all run by volunteers-they have NO paid staff. This is really unheard of...especially for something so large. And it's been around for 9 years. With NO paid staff!! I just have never heard of any agency working like this and being so successful for so long.
They are preparing to open a location in Belfair, WA this month - expanding out of the state even!!! It's just amazing.
This is such a great example of what one person can do to change the world. The founder of NCO just started out with her one time helping of a friend and look at where it has come today. She started something that now helps hundreds of children every week.
And it's recycling clothing! It's good for the world as a whole. I will never again take my sons clothing to be dropped off at Goodwill or *gasp* use them as rags or throw them away. Donating your clothes to them will get them directly into the hands of some child who is in need within weeks. Such a huge impact on the world with one little change....and founded by one woman's small desire to help a child in need.
We can all make a big difference with one small change. What will yours be?
Everybody can be great...Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace - A soul generated by love.