Friendship through volunteerism: Fifth in a Monday Series
by KATIE RINAUDO Volunteer Development VISTA
Mar 24, 2014 | 877 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HABITAT EMPLOYEES J.K. Barrineau, back row left, and Ken Bourassa, front, and volunteers Dale McClure, Ginger Shaffer and Betty Gannaway, enjoy working together at the Habitat ReStores in Cleveland. Much of the volunteers’ work is done in the back rooms where they work to prepare donated products for sale on the ReStore retail floor. Contributed Photo
HABITAT EMPLOYEES J.K. Barrineau, back row left, and Ken Bourassa, front, and volunteers Dale McClure, Ginger Shaffer and Betty Gannaway, enjoy working together at the Habitat ReStores in Cleveland. Much of the volunteers’ work is done in the back rooms where they work to prepare donated products for sale on the ReStore retail floor. Contributed Photo
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Cleveland, Ohio, native Ginger Shaffer loved her life before retirement. After 40 years of raising a family in Cleveland, Tenn., and working at a nursing career she loved, Shaffer decided to retire four years ago.

However, retirement was a bigger shock than she expected.

“When you have a very structured life for so long, you can tend to lose connection with friends,” Shaffer said. “Then all of a sudden, here you are floundering. The first six months of retirement was very difficult.”

Shaffer decided she needed to find something to do. So one day, as she was dropping off a donation at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, she decided to find out if she could volunteer.

Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty and homelessness. Since the group’s establishment in 1991, Habitat has worked in partnership with low-income working families, churches, sponsors and communities to build decent, affordable housing.

Habitat has two ReStores in Bradley County, one at 300 Grove Ave. S.W. and one at 4605 North Lee Highway. The ReStores accept donations from businesses and individuals of new and gently used items, ranging from clothing to appliances to building materials.

The items in the ReStores are for sale to the public, and all profits from the ReStores go directly to Habitat of Cleveland to build homes for qualified families in Bradley County.

As luck would have it, Shaffer ran into Dale McClure, another retiree who was coming to start her first volunteer day at Habitat.

“I walked in from the back and met Dale, who walked in from the front, and we met at [the volunteer coordinator’s] office door.” Instantly, a friendship was born.

The pair got along so well that at first, the Habitat staff thought they were sisters coming to volunteer together. Some 2 1/2 years later, the ladies claim the staff still gets them mixed up.

At least two days a week, the friends help sort, clean, price and put donations out on the floor at the ReStore.

“We do it all,” McClure said with a laugh. “Anything pertaining to the inside of the house, we handle that. We go through boxes, we go through bags. We go through everything, you never know,” she said.

“Dale and Ginger constantly go above and beyond what Habitat expects of their volunteers,” said Habitat’s Volunteer Services manager Anna Carmichael. “We certainly could not do what we do without them. They go through so much product a day that it’s just unbelievable. They’re definitely experts in their field.”

McClure moved to Cleveland three years ago to be closer to her grandchildren. Even though they have since moved away, McClure decided to stay.

“I have friends. I have a life. I have the ReStore which I dearly love,” she said. “I can give back. Whatever I can do, I do.”

Shaffer agreed.

“This has really given me purpose. Even my husband will agree after that I changed dramatically — after starting to volunteer, just getting out of the house and doing something.”

But sorting and pricing is not all they do together. Both women are creative and have steered their passion for Pinterest into their volunteer activities. McClure decorates signs for the ReStore and paints wine glasses for the store to sell while Shaffer experiments with repurposing things like extra ceiling fan blades and bowling balls.

“We work together,” Shaffer said with a grin. “I think we complement one another.”

“We do,” McClure agreed.

“What I love is that they both initiate new things,” Carmichael said. “It’s a lot more fun to volunteer when you’re investing not only your own time but your own skills. They get to be creative and do the things that they enjoy doing. They both really catch the vision of the ReStore: it’s not just reselling but repurposing. They take it up that extra notch.”

Carmichael pointed out the duo is also important in welcoming new volunteers and making the volunteer program successful.

“I’m very thankful for them,” she stated. “I know that a lot of the short-term volunteers that we’ve had have come simply because they enjoy their company. They enjoy working with them.”

“It’s fun!” Shaffer exclaimed. “The people are great to work with. We really are family.”

Volunteers are the foundation of the ReStores. Opportunities are available for procurement, receiving, merchandising, customer service and cashiers at both ReStores.

Those interested in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity should call the nonprofit’s Volunteer Services Department at 473-4610, ext. 202, or sign up online at www.habitatofcleveland.org/volunteer.