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Volunteers are at heart of Neat Repeats' mission

  • Written by Joe Boyle

melissa devlin  photo 9-7

Photo by Kelly White

Melissa Devlin (right), Crisis Center for South Suburbia's volunteer and training coordinator, takes applications from interested volunteers for Neat Repeats Resale shops at the Worth store on Aug. 24

Volunteers, whether their project is large or small, helps to improve the lives of others and have a positive impact on the world. The volunteers at the Neat Repeats Resale shops provide that helping hand

The shops, in both Orland Park and Worth, are owned and operated by the Crisis Center for South Suburbia. Total revenue from the shops provides funding for the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, which offers services for survivors of domestic violence.

Mary Lee Lockwood, of Palos Heights, has been a volunteer at Neat Repeats Resale for seven years.

“I started volunteering at Neat Repeats after retiring as a school administrator to give back to the mission of Crisis Center of South Suburbia,” Lockwood said. “I wanted to give back to an agency that supports women and children in crisis, and I really enjoy working with the dedicated volunteers and staff at Neat Repeats.”

The shops held a volunteer open house at the Worth location, 7026 W. 111th St., on Aug. 24 to gather more dedicated volunteers like Lockwood.

There were plenty of opportunities for volunteers, including fashion merchandising, customer service and processing donations. All volunteers will be required to work just one five hour shift a week in a fun retail environment, according to Neat Repeats. The shift will remain the same every week, and hours are flexible according to personal schedules. Applications were also accepted at the event for volunteers for the Orland Park location, 9028 W. 159th St.

This year, the Crisis Center of South Suburbia has helped over 1,000 women and children find a safe place to call home through the center’s residential services, hospital advocacy program, counseling services and teen dating violence prevention program.

The heart of what keeps these services alive is the volunteers, said Doreen Wolford, the regional manager for Neat Repeats Resale shops. She started out herself as a volunteer at the Worth location 17 years ago.

“I was on the PTA board in the Worth school district and we had a clothing drive,” said Holford, a Worth resident. “I knew Neat Repeats was in town and wanted to help. I met all of the volunteers and immediately knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of. It’s a great place to volunteer and donate.”

Over 200 dedicated and passionate volunteers have given over 40,000 hours to provide the funds to continue these much needed programs. The volunteers are mostly made up of women and girls, with the youngest volunteer at 13 years old and the oldest at 88.

“That’s what makes volunteering at Neat Repeats so unique.” Holford said. “We have such a wide age range of volunteers. There are not many opportunities out there where high school students can work alongside senior citizens. We find the best in every person who walks through the door.”

The shops are always looking for more volunteers.

Holford explained there is a need for volunteers because people are working more hours in their career fields and working longer than they use to in the past. For many residents, it is hard to dedicate time that you do not always have available.

“Giving your time is priceless,” Holford said. “I can promise all of our volunteers that they will feel better leaving for the day than they did when they first walked through the door. Volunteering gives you an inner strength that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Neat Repeats Resale’s volunteers agreed with Holford.

“People that volunteer are just really special human beings,” said Lois Stanciak, a Palos Heights resident and Neat Repeats volunteer for 14 years.

“I like that I know the proceeds are used wisely at the Crisis Center for the women and children,” said Oak Lawn resident Barb Hennessey, a volunteer for 19 years. “I’ve worked with amazing women throughout the years and I also get great bargains for myself and my family.”

The volunteers are what keep customers coming back, according to Christ Beele, the director for the Neat Repeats Resale shops.

“Neat Repeats is a very fun, supportive, empowering and welcoming atmosphere,” Beele said. “A lot of relations are built between our volunteers and our customers.”

Resembling upscale boutiques, the shops offer a large selection of women’s, junior’s, children’s and men’s clothing along with a variety of household items such as furniture, giftware, toys, books, antiques, collectible, shoes, purses and jewelry.

Neat Repeats originally opened in 1986 in Blue Island in 1986, but moved to Worth in 1993. The Orland Park location opened its doors in 2002. Items within the store are sold to the general public, but are available for clients of the Crisis Center free of charge.