By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — With an increase in donations of clothing and household items and an expanded, more organized “shopping” space, Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. is asking for more helping hands in its warehouse.
“We’re having some growing pains,” said Patti Trapp, volunteer coordinator for Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. (HMHI).
Currently, about 10 volunteers and participants in the AARP Senior Community Service Employment Program serve in the warehouse regularly. Trapp hopes to find an additional 10-20 volunteers to spend time at the 12,800-square-foot warehouse on a consistent basis.
HMHI is a program that helps move people from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Currently, 47 families are in the program. Upon being accepted, adults work with HMHI staff and social workers to develop goals and formulate a plan. This may include job training, addictions counseling or going back to school. HMHI provides participants with an apartment and invites them to the warehouse “store” to take home whatever items they need to furnish their new home. They can stock up on essential items such as clothing, as well. The items are theirs to keep even after they complete the program. Participants in the transitional program live in transitional apartments for two years — though Trapp says most feel ready to go out on their own after 18 months. Persons with long-term needs can participate in the permanent housing program.
“When people come to us, they literally have nothing,” Trapp said. “The warehouse is set up so they can start building a material life. Even just getting school supplies can be a burden for these families. Often, they are replacing everything down to bath towels! That would be hard for anyone, let alone the homeless.”
Previously, about half the space in HMHI’s warehouse was designated as a “store” for participants in the HMHI program. The other section was closed off to participants, containing more fragile and high-end items intended to be sold at HMHI’s biannual sale. The biannual sale’s proceeds are used to fund HMHI programs.
Trapp, hired in late 2014, began to rework the space with the help of staff and volunteers, striving to make it a more “dignified environment.”
They opened up the high-end item room, making it accessible to program participants, and organized donated items into sections — men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; furniture; kitchen items, etc. “You never know, participants might want a nice set of dishes for when grandma comes,” Trapp said.
Plenty of great items are left over for for the public to buy at the biannual sale under this format and, in fact, HMHI has been able to offer additional “mini sales” because of an influx of donations.
The bigger, more organized “boutique” setup requires more maintenance.
Trapp hopes more people will step forward to help fill in the gaps. Ideally, she’d like to find people who can volunteer at least weekly to be “in charge” of organizing and maintaining the store sections. She would also like to find more people to unload cars, carry furniture and sort through donations.
Persons with physical limitations and busy schedules are welcome, she said. Additionally, the warehouse can benefit from volunteer groups.
Sister Kaye Holland, CHM, has been helping in the warehouse for about nine years. Currently, she is in charge of sorting through unusable items that can be disassembled and sold for scrap metal or recycled in other ways. Stained clothes, for example, may be sent overseas to third-world countries. Sr. Holland appreciates that HMHI serves two of the charisms of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary — care for the poor and care for the Earth. “My reason for being rabid about recycling is the desire to care for the earth. We don’t want anything to be thrown out.”
Retiree Jerry Greenwood has been volunteering in the warehouse for about a month. He is one of the few volunteers who can lift some of the heavier objects, so his skills are well-utilized during the two days a week he comes to help. He feels that HMHI warehouse volunteers can have a strong impact on program participants’ lives. “A lot of people come in needing a lot of help. I like helping people out.”
Call or e-mail Patti Trapp at (563) 326-1330 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about becoming a volunteer at Humility of Mary Housing, Inc.’s warehouse.