Cindy Smith is a long-time Flourish Volunteer. We recently sat down for a conversation about her experience volunteering for almost ten years. Cindy shares lots of great insights, from the impact of volunteering and the importance of working alongside the community.
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My name is Cindy Smith. I’m a volunteer at Flourish Furniture Bank.
It’s been a long one! I initially got involved in 2014, when it was called My Father’s House. We were at an old warehouse off Manchester in Kansas City, Missouri. It was quite a ministry then and it has even grown more since. Overall, I think I’ve been volunteering for nine years.
I retired and was looking for things to do. I attend Church of the Resurrection and heard about the ministry. I thought it might be fun, so I started August of 2014.
It was different back then. The first warehouse building was probably constructed in the 1940s. There was no heat, so in the winter it got really cold. We would come across all kinds of little critters and creatures that found their way in through broken windows. We had to cross train tracks to get there. It was hard for some people to find the location.
It was not nearly as plush and clean and glitzy as we are now, but it was all volunteer ministry. That definitely made it special. It’s fun to see how it’s grown and developed over the years.
A couple things. One is the ministry and the work that Flourish Furniture Bank does. We’ve helped so many people over the years. I’m moved by the stories we hear from some of the people who come, they’re trying to get their lives back together.
And two, there are so many fine people that volunteer their time. It’s just been a pleasure to get to know and come to have a friendship with a number of the people that volunteer.
Well, I sweep the floors and do anything that’s needed!
Recently, I’ve evolved into primarily doing the packing. Once the client shops and the shoppers bring their shopping carts out with all kinds of nice materials and goods, I put them in boxes and bags so that the moving crew can load them onto their trucks.
Whatever needs to be done, I’m going to do that. Although I don’t think I can do woodworking real well. But you know, if it’s folding or dishpacking, I’m happy to do it.
Not too often because the shopper is their main point of contact. I think that’s really important. But sometimes I’ll say to an individual, “Did you enjoy your experience?” or “Did you find nice things?”
It’s wonderful to see their happiness and excitement about starting over. I think that’s true from the time that they pull in and the guys working the dock greet them, to checking in and then shopping and survey as they exit.
In the area where I do my packing, I get to see from start to finish the clients’ experience and the joy that they have. During the shopping, I’m in the aisles, picking up the carts as they’re being filled. I see the apprehension when they come here because they’re just not sure what this is all about. But they’re greeted from the time they pull into the parking lot until they check in and connect with their shopper to when they exit. It’s a transforming experience.
In our world now, there’s just so much despair. All of us who have been given so much need to be willing to get out of our comfort zones. We need to get down in the trenches and show people they’re valued.
It’s not a certain class, color, or age group. We have the privilege and opportunity to have touchpoints with many people who are not in our little world.
There are situations where people just haven’t had second chances. God is a god of second chances. It’s too easy, not to understand and to judge those who have less. We don’t have the whole story. That’s been important for me because it’s easy to evaluate a situation and look at a person, or the car they’re driving, or the house that they live in, or how they upkeep their house, or how they discipline their kids and blah blah. We have the opportunity and privilege to come alongside people who are not like us. It helps us appreciate others more.
I’ve had the privilege of working with our Food Mobile and Healing House Ministry. That helps me to really understand and see people from a different light. I help people in the Healing House program with creating job resumes. The people who come for the Food Mobile sometimes have no way of getting to a store, unless they take a bus and that may make two or three stops.
It’s made me realize that life is complicated for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, and that we just have no idea. So once again, it goes back to putting yourself in those situations to go alongside people to have a better understanding.
We have a picture on the wall. It’s not big, you know, 18 by 5 landscape size. It’s a painting of a sandal, a robe and a finger reaching down and touching a woman. She’s trying to touch the robe because she knows she can be healed. It’s a reminder of how Jesus stopped to take care of the disenfranchised. In a crowd of people who wanted to be close to him, he felt the importance of stopping for her. It’s a reminder for us in our daily lives to do that.
Every day I receive something from someone that touches me.
But I think it goes back to my faith life. I became a believer through Young Life when I was in high school. My high school English teacher was very important. Her kindness, love, patience and willingness to be my mentor has always had an influence on me. We all have teaching moments when someone has impacted us. That comes to mind as one of those times for me.
I hope I have with different things I’ve done along the way! I started my career as a teacher and hopefully, that was impactful to the students. I was also a coach for many years. Coaches play a pivotal role, whether it’s debate, drama, band, or a sport.
Coaching is a huge part of our partners’ services. The case managers are our folks’ personal coaches, and it makes a huge difference. We have no idea what goes on with them, the daily phone calls and the services they’re rendering. We just see them once when they come to Flourish with their client. I can’t imagine the caseloads they have and the questions they get all the time. It’s a very challenging position to be in social work, trying to help people become independent.
That Flourish is volunteer-driven and that we take pride in what we do. Some people work more volunteer hours than others, but we’re always grateful for those who are willing to say yes. We’d love for case managers to plant seeds with their clients so that in time when they establish themselves, the person shopping can become the volunteer. We cherish the opportunity to bring in more volunteers.
I’d want them to know that we serve a lot of people every week. We’re a non-profit organization funded through donations, gifts and grants. Sometimes the warehouse has a lot of things to offer, and other times we don’t have as much.
Please come and see! There are all kinds of areas you can plug into. One of the beautiful things about volunteering with Flourish is that you don’t have to punch a time clock and be expected to work every day. But anytime you want to come volunteer, we can use you!