25 April 2012

What is Charity?

Window dressing it seems....

Store window, Fitzroy, Melbourne



Middleage makes you more reflective.

You start wondering about the "big" questions like, What is life? Why am I here? What have I contributed to society? What will I leave behind? How much Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it is not a healthy choice.

All the big questions.



I decided a long while ago that I needed to do more community service. After all, if you listen to Bill Gates and Dick Smith, community service is apparently not just not for hardened criminals anymore.

So while I am doing some things, I know that I should be doing a whole lot more.
Last Friday, my rattled conscience and a service opportunity collided…. right outside a Vinnies store (St Vincent de Paul op shop).  

I happened to wander past the store and I noticed a sign in the window asking for volunteers for a couple of hours a week. I could do that I thought. I walked into the store and was quite surprised. These days the stores look like small boutiques as opposed to op shops. Have you noticed? I wonder where poor people go to shop nowadays.

After explaining to the Manager that I was keen to 'sign up', she invited me into her office and asked me to take a seat.  She then pulled out a thick pile of papers and started firing questions at me.

"What is Charity?"
"What is it you think we do here?"
"What qualifications do you have that could help us?"

Oh my, a full blown interview and I had not even brushed my hair.

I started to panic and before I knew it I was channeling Mother Theresa. I heard myself saying, “I have immense love and compassion for all living beings and I believe we all have a duty to give of ourselves and I just want to give my time to help the poor.”….
“Right”, she interrupted, “I hear you. It’s just that we really like to make sure our volunteers are qualified for, and happy with the work they do. Have you ever done retail?” she asked hopefully.

“Sure, I have done plenty of retail in my time, but possibly not much of the kind you are talking about.”

NO RETAIL she writes down, underlining it several times.

“So what is it you could do for us then?” she asked.

“Well, I could clearly do your recruitment file things in the office, empty the rubbish, sweep the floor, dust, fold socks, sort stock. Anything really." I said.

“No, no, I think you would be good in the front with the customers but I’m just not sure what doing. It’s just that we try and match people’s skills with the work that’s all. So what do you do in your spare time?

"Well", I say slowly, "I like art, blogging…", I didn’t get any further because she looked as though I had just told her I really enjoyed smoking crack.

So I said rather flippantly, “Right, well I know how important process is to you, and clearly by the look of that large pile of papers you have very strict procedures. Maybe this may help, I have a business degree and a theatrical makeup degree. I like working with order and colour in most things I do. So perhaps I could colour code your clothes in the store the same way the Kookai clothes chain does in theirs.”

No smile, no laugh, nothing.

She scribbled something down and looked very serious.

“Perfect”, she finally announced, “I have it. You could help do the window and instore displays. Merchandising, that’s it. Mother’s Day is coming up. Now here is a 20 page application form for you to complete. I will need two referees and we will have to do a police check as well. How does that sound?”

“Lovely, just lovely”, I say.

I stood up with perspiration forming on my brow.

Ok, so that really did not go the way I expected. At all.

And, I am just giving you the heads up, just so you can get your pennies all lined up in rows. If I don’t cut the mustard to be an unpaid volunteer window dresser at Vinnies for several hours a week, I am putting a donation button on my blog and becoming my own charity…..because clearly I would be so very, very deserving.

Do you do any charity or community work?
Do share as I am sure there are some fascinating stories out there, even though I can't imagine too many others dressing windows for the disadvantaged.


58 comments:

  1. Jeanne Estridge25 April 2012 01:45

    I recently started volunteering at the free clinic where I used to be bookkeeper. I check-in patients for the walk-in clinic. I suck at it, but I'm convinced with practice I'll improve.

    If they let me come back.

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  2. donations of money and clothes mostly.  I did just do a little volunteering at a science fair last week.  No interview was involved.  I posted about a few days ago.  I suspect the manager was not a volunteer.  She would do good to lighten up some.  If I understand you are just offering some time not looking for a new career.

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  3. Greg and I have worked with the Harvest Food organization.  People who donate food, the items get sent to one big warehouse, divided out by categories, then put into boxes and sent into another section to be given to the drivers.  We happened to work one night when a bunch of high school girls were assigned to do their community time. You could see the look of boredom on their faces.  I thought it was great how the school promoted community help, but I wish the girls appreciated what they did more.
    We didn't have any applications or background check or anything.  Just sign up and join the assembly line :)

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  4. Your tale is hysterical ... clearly you are over qualified!  I still volunteer in memory care and I also work stage crew for local theater ... currently working crew for "Rabbit Hole" ...  keeps me hopping!

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  5. I wonder if they get many volunteers after putting them through the "wringer" so much....

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  6. wow sounds like a job interview!  Enjoy your volunteer work!

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  7. Oh, I'm sputtering in hysteria- how utterly hilarious and inconceivable all at once! I love to help at school, and I help out in various ways for the kids sports teams. Keep looking Lilly, there is a someone who would snatch you up in a heartbeat if they spent two seconds talking to you!

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  8. Hi Vikki, thanks. I have just read about your good news. Simply wonderful. There are no words but WELL DESERVED!!!

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  9. Hi Vikki, thanks sweet. I just read your good news, no your great news. Congratulations, it is so WELL DESERVED!!!!

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  10.  Yes it felt like a job interview too. I will enjoy it. It will be fun I am sure and hopefully helpful.

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  11.  Makes you wonder really. Well I will see how I go but they are pretty strict here. Clearly they are not looking for criminals of any sort. Hey Betty I hope they don't ever find my blog and find that hilarious post about you and I as drug barons, lol. Have to dig it out.

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  12.  He he hopping....I seriously just thought someone has to sort through all the goods that come in. I would have been more than happy to do the grunt work. Ah well.. I will do what is helpful to them. Rabbit Hole, wow. Love to see that Helen.

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  13.  That sounds interesting Aleta. I think that there is something similar here too, Food Bank maybe its called. Wonderful program. Yes lots of schools do this I think and also government agencies make the unemployed do it too. However, it is something that you have to want to do. It's hard for young kids I guess to get their head around the fact that someone else other than themselves is important.

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  14.  Absolutely Lisleman I just want to give my time not make a career out of it. Anyway if they need to use me that way is fine by me. I would hate to be going for a paying job there though. Not sure I would be successful.

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  15.  Hello Jeanne, lovely to have you drop by. I bet they are very grateful to have you there. Must go and catch up on your blog, looks like you have finished up work now and maybe have lots of time to do more writing....hope so. I am sure that clinic experience has a book in it somewhere.

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  16. Last year I wanted to volunteer at our local food bank.  I was surprised to find out they didn't have a whole lot of need, and the times they needed people didn't jive with my schedule.

    (I think it may have been due to the number of people in between jobs; they decided volunteering would help them stay busy and look good on their resume.)

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  17.  http://www.lillyslife.com/2009/05/lilly-and-betty-were-drug-barons.html  - found it Betty, do you remember?

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  18. Yes Kathy, I noticed that there were a few young girls in the store working which surprised me. I thin you are right, they have to do it now so they can put something on their resume. It is a good thing too.   I am going to teach English to refugees too as there is a big need for that here. Thanks for dropping by.

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  19. They should be encouraging volunteers...not discouraging them through the interview process! I haven't really volunteered as an adult but am contemplating if I could do so at an animal shelter or something. Working some Saturdays doesn't help as it only leaves Sundays and my local animal shelter is closed on Sundays! 

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  20. Yes, but you are busy as it is and very young still. You would be great with animals but don't forget you are also doing your bit drawing attention to their plight on your blog. That is a community service too!

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  21. I don't know you are doing a community serice by bloggin and making me laugh....at you, with you, whatever, lol

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  22. Usually at me, ah well. I put myself out there so...lol

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  23. OK Lilly, listen up girl, we have got to get some of your work published....it is pure gold!!
    Namaste
    Peggy xxxxxx

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  24. Thanks sweet Peggy. The sad part about it is that it is not made up. These things actually happen. And you missed telling the world what things you do for the community. You are doing great work....while some of us just window dress, lol

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  25. You are hilarious. You could stand in Vinnies reading your blog posts and that would brighten people's lives up. How f'g hilarious. I want you to post some of your window work on your blog when you are done to you hear me. Isn't it maddening how process and red tape has taken over the world. As for me, I do a lot of work with my kids schools and that is about all I can manage.

    By the way, I just reread that Lilly and Betty were Drug Barons post. How hilarious was that. So funny, you should repost some of your old posts too.

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  26. Lilly that is what your blog readers LOVE about your posts, they are about REAL life and written with humour....quite a difficult combination.  
    I read Richard Glover's column regularly in the SMH and he always writes about real life, you are DEFINITELY on par with him.
    I am not going to let up Lilly until I see your work in print my friend. 
    Peg xxxxxx

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  27. Yep, I enjoyed being a drug baron for that short wee while. lol not sure about Betty though....

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  28. Oh Peggy, I do the posts in two mintues as I don't have a lot of time to spend on them so I am sure someone could edit the hell out of them. But it's fun hey just writing on our blogs. We are in print, on the internet anyway, and thats good enough for me. I have tried but just cannot get time to do the Gogole+, emailing, the Facebooking, Twittering etc. I can only manage the blogging bit so am never going to be ever a serious blogger or writer. I am working on a book though about very serious stuff, nothing funny at all....anyway thanks for your continued support. I treasure it.

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  29. I work for the Red Cross as a volunteer. I love it and volunteering does a power of good. You will make a great window dresser, you funny thing.

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  30. Good on you and thanks for dropping by.

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  31. Interesting.  What were they doing that was for a cause?  Did I miss that somewhere?

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  32. Oh they are a charity that sells second hand things to aid the disadvantaged. Like an op shop. Thanks for coming by for a visit that was very nice of you to do that.

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  33. How funny, not really the way to get volunteers is it. Its not like you volunteer to try and satisfy yourself, you're ther eto make someone else's life better. Good luck with it.

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  34. Well, Lilly, after I finished guffawing I must tell you that I've had a discouraging set of experiences with trying to volunteer.  The applications are long, detailed.  I had to do a CORI check to see if I had a criminal record (years ago when I volunteered, they didn't do this at all) and recently, to volunteer reading at a school I had to provide fingerprints by going to the police station and paying for them myself.  It was a nominal fee but still.  After going through orientation, they asked me to go to a school  that really needed help rather than one nearer to my house.  Long story short, it seems that a lot of times places ask for volunteers but aren't really ready for them.  The 1st week I went, the teacher was testing and had no need for me - she hadn't realized I was coming in that week (this afte rbeing there for an hour waiting on her). The 2nd week I listened to 5 children in the top reading group read to me, one at a time.  The 3rd week, I  had 8 children read to me in the middle and lowest groups.  The reading takes place in a crowded supply clloset with room for 2 chairs.  Anyhow...I'm going to stick with it until June when school ends.  then I will try to work with teens which is what I like.  I've signe dup for programs that didn't get back to me, etc.  You also are not allowed to do tasks that there are paid staff to do.  I wanted more hands-on than board service allows but it's been difficult.

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  35. Oh Can Can, sounds like its the same everywhere then. Finger prints? I guess working with children is a big issue and rightly so given the possibility of certian undesirable types trying to get a foot in the door as a volunteer. Best of luck with it and I am sure those children are going to benefit greatly from your fantastic skills as well. Thanks for stopping by.

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  36. Thanks SunnyG thats what i thought. Perhaps there is somethign we don't know about this whole volunteering thing though. They may have a need to put us through hoops for a reason But you are right I would ahve been happy to do anything, the crappy stuff included.

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  37. young werther27 April 2012 11:28

    Vinnies, love that place... can't hire those volunteers who want first pick of the 'donations' and leave nothing for us real shoppers eh?

    To get a job there, you'll have to grease up the local priest (like attend mass at least twice a week) and have coffee with the CEO, CFO and COO (aka the 'ladies') after church :)

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  38. Oh shite Young Werther that leaves me out then. Actually I was reading in their huge application form that volunteers are not allowed to buy anything from the shop until it is priced and placed in the shop to sell. I wonder does it really happen like that. You seeme to know a lot about it, former altar boy are you, lol?

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  39. I don't reckon many financially challenged people need to shop in op shops anymore because new clothes etc are so cheap now. Just because its all made in China abd the retail undustry is going to the wall and discounting everything heavily anyway. Have you noticed every store is permanently having a Sale.

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  40. Go for it, Lilly. Remember that they also serve who only stang and dress windows.

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  41. That is a good point actually. I notice around where I live stores are either closing down and getting rid of stock or they are having 70% off sales etc. Why buy second hand when you can buy new..

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  42. Thanks I will and get your meaning.

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  43. OldOldLady Of The Hills27 April 2012 17:32

    Well, I've never heard of such a thing---EVER!  Perhaps you should look into some other places to Volunteer.....Until my Confinement, I have done a lot of "charity" work. Mostly helping to raise money for different AIDS Organizations here in Los Angeles...I was never asked anything like the things you were asked. In fact, I don't remember being asked anything at all!  They were all happy to have me participate in whatever way I could....!

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  44. Yes Naomi, I know that is what I was expecting. I guess things have changed. I will give it a go nonetheless.

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  45. I never thought about op shops needing window dressers.

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  46. since you are back roaming blogland again (at least I think so), you probably have a brilliant answer to a question I posed on my blog today.  Ok, I know, this is a comment begging.

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  47. Yes, I am coming over to see what you are up to, busy weekend is all. Beggars can't be choosers, Lisleman, lol.

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  48. This is the reason I don't volunteer, I am offering my time, I don't

    expect the third degree

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  49. True, I guess it just goes to show how society has changed. Charity organisations cannot even trust anyone now. Bit sad but I am still going ahead and volunteering. Thanks for stopping by Lom.

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  50. I guess I could email this but it is good enough to share with others too.
    This sign reminded me of your post about the mowing neighbor.  You would not post this sign.
    http://pinterest.com/pin/255368241341067402/

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  51. Bill, my late friend Dianne actually had a sign like this in her front yard. I am sure Lilly wouldn't consider putting a sign like this up.
    Cheeers
    Peg 

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  52. You are right there Peggy. What a great sign it is Lisleman, very funny...

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  53. Wow!  I always love reading your posts, Lilly.  They always make me smile.  You're a chip off your dad's ol' block. 

    Ummm... I'm embarrassed to say I haven't done a whole bunch of community work since I retired which sounds crazy, but I just haven't found a place to do it here in Hawaii.  Sigh... now I'm feeling guilty.  On the other hand, I might not be qualified anyway.

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  54. Aw thank Kay that is a lovely comment. I think you are right and I wish I was as funny as my father and could write as well as my mother. Now that would be something. No, don't feel guilty you are busy and give to charities all the time (I remember a post about that).

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  55. Joanna Jenkins10 May 2012 10:50

    Hi Lilly,  You are very kind.  I'm not sure I'd have had the patience for your volunteer "boss".  I get wanting to match the person up to the job but she was over the top for me.... And I do A LOT of charity work... but for people who are polite.  Sheesh.

    I volunteer on the Board of an arts program that pays to bring public school kids to see live music, dance and theater performances.  It's a 40 year old organization with many of the founding members still involved... which means that we have Board members between the ages of 80 and 102!!!!  Funny thing thought, when I volunteered they were soooo happy to have a "young person" involved (I was 50 at the time!).  They made my day.

    xo jj

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  56. How fantastic Joanna. I love the fact that the Board members are still actively involved. Great organisation by the sound of it too.

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Thanks for your comments. I love reading what you have to say.