As you may have heard, instead of letting you in free on your birthday, Disney is rewarding everyone who does a day of service in 2010 with a freebie. So this time you and your friends/family can all get in free on the same day, provided each of you (over 6 years old) completes a service activity. It's quite the deal, particularly if you already live in Florida (or near Anaheim for that matter). [Go here for more info]
Anyway, Jonathan and I signed up a couple weeks ago to complete our service on Martin Luther King Day. It sounded like a great opportunity... the description mentioned sorting donations and decorating a miniature golf course for an upcoming tournament/fundraiser. And the five-hour commitment included lunch. And it was only 15 minutes away. Awesome.
The morning of the event we left with time to spare, but there was no traffic and we found the Rescue Mission easily. It's a rather large campus, and they have several other properties on the block. It's a bare-bones shelter, really. It focuses on getting people inside and give them a meal, nothing fancy. Another facet of their organization is to help addicts get on their feet. As with many similar groups, donations mean a lot to them. It gives the homeless clothing and also stocks their shop (like a thrift store).
There were plenty of volunteers that morning, and every single one was needed for what was in store. After a short orientation, we found out that there would be no golf course activities that day... one group would create hygiene kits (aka mini toiletries kits), the other would be sorting donations in the warehouse. Jonathan and I headed off with the sorting group. And that's when things got interesting.
It's a large warehouse. There were literally HUNDREDS of large garbage bags full of donations in one area. Well, if they don't have heaps of volunteers often, maybe they wait a while to sort their things.... NOPE, not the case. ALL of the bags in this one area came from a single home in Trenton. Over $1,000,000 of merchandise was brought out of the house. How is this possible, you wonder? Well, the home it was all removed from was one going to be featured on an upcoming episode of A&E's Hoarders, the reality show about real-life packrats.
There were fifteen of us sorting the bags, and we didn't even finish in the two-and-a-half hour shift we spent in that room. Bag after bag, so many things... we found receipts ranging from 1992 to just a month ago. We found photos. We found homework (some old enough to have been done on a typewriter). We found dozens of purses, tags still attached. Hundreds of shirts, both new and used. Many of the trash bags were full of bags from the malls... still full from initial purchases. There were scores of photo frames and wedding gifts, stuffed animals and books. I don't even know how to estimate how many pounds of clothing we saw... but we filled up cart after cart that probably held about 96 cubic feet each. Tons of shoes and glassware and even gourmet food gifts. And it's not like there was no rhyme or reason to the collections... many items featured pineapples or golf balls, and most of the clothing was the same size with the same sort of patterns (lots of flowers and leaves, no stripes, many colors, mostly cotton).
It was an eye-opening experience. Really made me want to become much more of a minimalist, LoL. But seriously, we both thought the people who were regulars were very nice, and that the Mission is doing great work (and have been since they opened in 1915). We are considering volunteering there on a regular basis (and goodness knows they need some more help figuring out how they'll sell the bulk of the items from the Hoarders donation!), so we'll see what happens.
We ended up not staying for lunch (ended up being at the end of the day), and when we reconvened with the whole group, I was shocked at how large it had gotten -- the afternoon volunteers had shown up as well, making it truly fantastic gathering of people giving up their holiday to help those less fortunate.