Photo by Joe Boyle
Chris Doran cuts a piece of cake during her retirement party held May 11 at Neat Repeats Resale in Worth. Doran retired after serving 29 years as a volunteer for Neat Repeats.
It all started when Chris Doran wanted to take a few courses at Moraine Valley Community College.
“It was suggested as part of my class to do a paper by volunteering at the Crisis Center,” recalls Doran. “I don’t know if I could do that. But then it was mentioned that they have a retail store. I thought that would be a great idea.
“And I have been here ever since,” she added.
That was the beginning of her 29 years as a volunteer for the Neat Repeats Resale, which is now located at 7026 W. 111th St., Worth. Doran reminisced about the early days on May 11 during a retirement party held in her honor at the shop.
Funds raised from Neat Repeats Resale benefits the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a non-profit community organization that provides emergency shelter and other services for individuals and families victimized by domestic violence. The Crisis Center has helped hundreds of women build a better life for themselves and their children. Neat Repeats also has another location in Orland Park.
Doran said that she began working at the first Neat Repeats store in the fall of 1988 at a different location down the street in Worth. In those days, there were just three or four volunteers who assisted shoppers who wanted to purchase items or were dropping off clothing to be used for resale.
The first store was considerably smaller than the current location, Doran said. In the early days she might just have a couple shoppers come in the store. Today there are shoppers coming all day, while other people are dropping off items.
“We have not only benefited the Crisis Center, but we have benefited the community,” Doran said.
She mentioned that they had previously participated in job fairs at Moraine Valley. They would offer suggestions to people who would shop at Neat Repeats, many of whom were the victims of domestic abuse and were struggling financially.
“We would give them tips on how to dress conservatively for interviews,” Doran said. “And we would help them with the clothes they could wear. You don’t realize that often these people have been abused and often just don’t know how to go to an interview.”
Doran said that often the people who attended the job fairs would come back to Neat Repeats to inform her that they had a couple of interviews.
“We believed in them and supported them,” Doran said. “I appreciated what the shop did for the community. It really grew. The people who volunteer are truly amazing people.”
Doran grew up in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood and attended St. Sabina School. Her family later moved to Oak Lawn. Doran is a graduate of Queen of Peace High School. She and her husband, Jerry, have two children. The couple has lived in Oak Forest for 27 years.
“We now have 175 volunteers,” said Doreen Holford, who serves as the operations manager at the Neat Repeats Resale store in Worth. “Everything is based on the volunteers. Chris trained me. I could not be trained by a better person.”
Holford, who is a longtime Worth resident, said that Doran is a last of a breed of volunteers who have worked at Neat Repeats.
“Because of the economy and raising families, a lot of women have to work and don’t have time to volunteer,” Holford said. “We won’t have anyone anymore like Chris who will volunteer for 29 years. That’s why we have a lot of seniors as volunteers who are retired and have more time. We are community based. The stores keep going through the work of the volunteers. We have been blessed to have these seniors volunteer for us.”
Joyce Athey serves as the store director at the Neat Repeat shop in Worth. She also plans to retire in June after working as a volunteer for 21 years. She said that Doran was a dedicated volunteer.
“In the beginning, she would often work late and have her kids here with her,” Athey said. “She really cared for the people and would talk to them and share their concerns. It’s more than just the clothes, it’s the people.”
Doran also applauded the efforts of Joni Rusco, a former longtime volunteer who surprised her by attending the retirement party. Doran said she was one of the original managers and was one of the many volunteers that have worked at Neat Repeats over the years.
“You know a lot of the women who volunteer have lost husbands and we become like family,” Doran said. “We really care for each other. I go out to dinner with many of these people. We enjoy each other’s company.”
Current and former volunteers stopped by to visit Doran last Thursday. One longtime customer dropped by specifically to see Doran.
“We have come such a long way,” Doran said. “We are now a boutique. People love coming here and we see many of these customers all the time. They are appreciative of what we do here because retail is not doing that well since the economy went bad. This is a place they can come to where they feel comfortable, and the prices are affordable.”
Doran was asked what she is going to miss most about Neat Repeats.
“I’m going to just say the friendships I’ve developed,” Doran said. “I’ve been with some amazing volunteers. A lot of people stay because they say it’s very comfortable, a great group of people.”
Doran said she as fortunate to put in as many hours in the beginning because her husband owned a Popeye’s chicken franchise in which he put in a lot of hours. Her sons, Jerry, 31, now lives in New York, and Matt, 26, lives in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. She and her husband have decided to move to Chicago’s South Loop.
“I guess it’s time for a new adventure,” Doran said. “I told everyone I’m going to miss it. They have been like family.”