Yesterday I volunteered for em_meredith and was sent to the big warehouse in the Reliant Center to sort and fold clothes. It was pretty dull work, but it needs to be done. The clothing is organized into giant rows by size, and it was our job to try and keep everything folded and sorted into the right location so it could be easily found by those who needed it. You would not believe some of the hideous things people donate. Some of it was filthy, some of it was too worn to be usable, and some of it was just plain ugly. And there were tons sweaters, which, you know, are really useful in our 95-degree heat. Anything gross or dirty we threw out, and then we packed up some of the uglier clothes to make space for a huge shipment of nice new clothes donated by the Texans.
Today I went back to volunteer for alanao and was promoted to "shopper." When people need clothes/shoes/toiletries/etc., they come to the clothing distribution station and give their list to one of the shoppers. Then we go back into the giant warehouse and sift through the rows of clothing to try and fill their request as best we can. It's a lot of pressure because you want to pick out something nice that the person will actually like (and that fits them), but you don't have time to spend an hour digging through the clothes for the cutest outfit ever, because there are people waiting in line for their turn.
The Red Cross Volunteer who trained us tried to emphasize how important it is to do the very best job we can, because we're trying to give people back a little bit of their dignity. He was so passionate about everything and the way he talked totally reminded me of Vincent D'Onofrio's character on L&O:CI. Also, it was his last day, so he got a little teary when he started talking about how this experience has changed his whole life. He was very sweet.
Anyway, I got assigned to work one of the stations for men, which was easier because men's fashion is so much more straightforward than women's. Almost any man will look decent in a polo shirt and pair of khakis. The one time I went in search of women's clothes it took me forever and I wasn't at all happy with what I finally came up with.
Sometimes we didn't have certain things that people wanted and I had to tell them to check back later. Tennis shoes, slippers and men's belts were in woefully short supply. Also boxer shorts. We had stacks of brand new tighty-whities, but none of the young guys wanted anything to do with them, and I can't say I blame them.
I like to think I did a fair job of matching the clothes to the taste of the client I was shopping for. Most of the time I was able to find at least one or two pretty cool things for everyone I helped. Today we had a bunch of brand new Fubu shorts and Dickies pants that the guys were clamoring for. And whenever I could turn up a pair of name-brand jeans for one of the younger men his face would light up so much it made you want to cry. I never in my life thought I'd be so happy to get my hands on Tommy Hilfiger jeans.
No volunteering for me tomorrow, but I'll try to go back on Thursday if they'll have me.