"To act as a friend at any and all times to men, women and children in need of care, guidance and assistance, spiritually, materially and physically."
On Monday I wrote that doing volunteer work is a great path to happiness and psychological well being. Lately, it's been key to helping me overcome my anxiety. But my introduction to Assistance League of Everett (ALE) came about for an entirely different reason: boredom.
I was about eight months into my job as a new mom, and as much as I loved staying home and taking care of C, I was going a little stir crazy. I was used to working full time, none of my friends had kids yet, and I was craving interaction from someone who could answer back with actual words.
An acquaintance suggested donating my extra time at ALE, and twenty years later, I'm still here.
National Assistance League was founded in 1919 by twelve friends in Southern California to provide food and clothing for local families adversely affected by World War I. Since then the organization has grown to 120 chapters across the country. Each chapter is independently operated and works on a variety of philanthropic projects.
ALE's main program is Operation School Bell, a cause that is near and dear to my heart. To date we have served over 75,000 children by providing new clothes, shoes and hygiene kits at our OSB "store". Students are paired with a volunteer who helps them shop for several new outfits. Most of these children have never had their own new clothes before, and often it's the first time they've had their own toothbrush. There's nothing like seeing those excited faces as they haul their shopping bags back out to the school bus.
The majority of the funds used to purchase the items for the store comes from our Thrift Shop, which is also run and staffed by volunteers.
The greatest thing about ALE? It relies 100% on volunteers - there isn't a single paid person in the group. Almost impossible to find in a non-profit these days.
Since joining twenty years ago, I've had the opportunity to chair the teen auxiliary, been treasurer, helped raise funds to build a new thrift store, and clothed many kids. I've met the most amazing people with some of the biggest hearts on the planet.
But really, I'm the winner. I have been enriched by the people I've met, I've learned new skills that translate to my business, and every time I leave the building I have a smile on my face and joy in my soul. What started out as a way to combat boredom quickly turned into the opportunity to make myself a better person by helping others. A definite win/win for life.