The Lives We Touch: Bridging Shopping Volunteers

12/20/2019 by Rebecca Toews

“I Get More Than I Give”: A Day with Bridging’s Shopping Volunteers

Guest Blog Post by Kirsten Fedorowicz, Quaker Voluntary Service Fellow

Every morning at Bridging a group of volunteers gather around a table. Some are just coming in from the warehouse, where they have been searching for “best finds” among the furniture to show the clients they will soon shop with; others are having conversations about their weekends and grandkids.

This Monday, Ruth, the volunteer coordinator in Bloomington, debriefs the group about what they can expect from the morning; usually, they hear what size families are coming in and any updates from the warehouse team about their process. Each pair of shoppers puts a name tag in a bowl to be drawn out and decide the order they will receive clients – a process that quickly dissolves into teasing and joking about the volunteers who, somehow, always get picked last.

Volunteer shopper, Pat S. has been a volunteer at Bridging for almost 11 years. He’s quick with a smile and he’s an expert at how to make clients feel empowered through the process of choosing their items.

Pat was personally invited to start volunteering at Bridging by our founder, Fran Heitzman, who he knew from church. Due to this personal connection – the two men have known each other for thirty years – Pat has been enlisted on many wild projects.

Pat’s been a witness to many of Fran’s adventures – you don’t become a founder of a successful nonprofit without taking a few risks!

“Most projects with Fran have been a little on the hairy side,” Pat noted.

Outside of his adventures with Fran, Pat loves working with the clients. After a shopping trip, he always goes away with a good feeling. “I get more than I give,” he says.

Another longtime volunteer, Patty, estimates that she’s worked with approximately a thousand clients since she started volunteering in 2012. Like a lot of volunteers, Patty remembers many of the clients  she’s worked with.

After Patty retired, she was looking for a fulfilling volunteering opportunity, “I needed something to do and wanted to give back to the community.”

Making a House Feel Like a Home…

While researching local nonprofits, Patty read about Bridging. I love the idea of reusing things for people who really need them” She says. Patty highlighted something that everyone involved with Bridging – staff and volunteers alike – are proud of: when clients come into Bridging, they get furniture that makes their house or apartment feel “like they can live in it.”

Carrie started volunteering the summer of 2019 and says she loves working with Bridging’s community of volunteers, made up of, as she describes it, “everyday people.”

“The things we laugh about are the same,” Carrie says.

Most volunteers share share a similar sentiment. Bridging’s volunteers – largely retirees, former social workers, teachers, and business people – support each other, laugh together, and problem solve in pairs.

These volunteers give something concrete to look forward to, whether a person is decades from retirement, or it’s just around the corner.  To be part of a community – almost 2,000 volunteers between the Roseville and Bloomington locations – that teaches and encourages one another each day as we FURNISH HOMES WITH HOPE..

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