This week is Volunteer Appreciation Week. We couldn’t think of a better group of volunteers to highlight than our clothing room volunteers. This incredible group of five women have been volunteering with us for more than a decade, and have clocked up THOUSANDS of hours for us, and have made an immeasurable difference. We can never thank them enough! Check out this blog post to learn more about these fabulous women.
Brenda Sider Clark, who is in charge of the Clothing Donation Center at Covenant House New Orleans, has been volunteering at Covenant House for 11 years. After her first year volunteering, she began coordinating a group of women from her church, Ephesus SDA Church, to volunteer alongside her two days a week. Elder Lois S. Magee, Brenda’s sister and an elder at the church, along with Delores, Irene, and Emelda, longtime friends of Brenda’s, have stayed incredibly busy for the last ten years, not only volunteering here, but also volunteering at a number of organizations around town. Recently, Brenda took some time away from her full schedule to talk to us a little bit more about what brought her to Covenant House and what has kept her here for all these years.
What brought you to Covenant House?
“I retired in 2001 and had been volunteering at other agencies. One day I just came in here and I asked what kind of volunteer duties they had. First they brought me around to the children’s section, I said “No, I don’t think I want to do that!” and then they told me that they had the clothing room, but it’s a monster – nobody stays. They said they have tried to hire people but it just gets overwhelming so they asked if I wanted to give that a try and I said “Ok I’ll give that a try.” Well I ended up liking it and I just kept doing it and – oh yes – at times it was overwhelming, but I keep going. I was the community service director for my church, so I brought a group of women, and they started volunteering with me. We’ve been here ever since, every Monday and Thursday. We have a good team, we work well together, don’t have any problems, we just do what we do.”
As the Director of Community Service at her church, Brenda and her ministry of women have been volunteering around New Orleans for about a decade now.
“One time we did a fundraiser for beds for the children here and we brought Monica Chanel over to speak at our church and I think we ended up donating $1,000 for beds for the children. Right now I am working with Sheri, the Human Trafficking case manager at Covenant House, to host awareness events at churches in the area. My church was the first church that hosted the awareness program and we have four upcoming events scheduled at other churches. At that event, we donated $250 to help fight human trafficking.
We do all sorts of different things in the community. We feed the homeless every other Tuesday at the drop in center for homeless youth and we feed over at Lantern Light. We prepare all our meals at the church and then we bring them to the facilities. After Katrina we had about eight feeding spots and we would bring hot meals to all the people in different hotels because all the homeless were taken to the hotels. We also have clothing giveaways – we take whatever we don’t use here and donate it to other places. We’ve been able to help a lot of people. So, it gets overwhelming, it really does, but we all just work together until we get the work done.”
What has been your favorite part about working at Covenant House?
“Being able to assist them and taking the responsibility of handling things that are donated and just taking that burden off them has been very rewarding. Being able to see people come in and find what they want or need. You know guys will come in and get their white shirts and black pants, our ladies will do the same so they can go out there and interview.”
“You know people see us in the clothing room, we do what we have to do here, we clear out everything, we bring more in, we do the best we can keeping things up, but we also do so many other things. Sometimes we are rushing out of here because we going to go feed or we have to go shop for the food to serve. It’s been so rewarding, I love it. I love it. And I want to give credit to everyone around me.”
Brenda looks to Irene next to her, “She is very faithful, very dependable. I feel guilty sometimes I put too much on her and then she fusses at me. She will never say no.”
How long have you all known each other?
“Oh Irene! Long time. She used to drive my kids to school. Irene how long has it been? Forty something years?” Irene smiles a wide smile and nods, continuing to fold the clothes, putting them away for the next group of youth to pick through. It seems as if these two, along with the rest of the hardworking crew of volunteers, will not be slowing down anytime soon.