I went back to volunteering at the MCC Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue yesterday. It was going to be the first time I was spending time indoors with a group of people since the pandemic started. I took the bus and that was a first for me too. Before COVID-19 I took the bus everywhere in Winnipeg. There were only two other riders on the bus yesterday morning. I wore my mask and was careful about covering my hands when I touched the railings and doors.
The Thrift Store had just opened the day before to the public and the shop managers told us they’d had a record sales day. People had obviously been waiting for the store to open. Yesterday only volunteers were on-site because for now, the shop is only open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with strict limits on how many people can be in the store at a time.
The number of volunteers who can work on the upper level of the store sorting and pricing and cleaning is limited as well, so I couldn’t volunteer with the usual group of women from my church. We have too many people in our group. A smaller number of them will volunteer today. But even though I wasn’t with my church friends, I knew all the other volunteers there yesterday from various connections and it was nice to chat as we worked a safe six feet apart from one another.
I am the Christmas lady at the store and plenty of Christmas decorations and paraphernalia had piled up for me to sort, clean, organize, package and price. I was there for five hours and didn’t get to the bottom of the pile although I had filled eight boxes with product ready to sell in December by the time I left. I decided to walk home rather than take the bus and that felt good. Next week I think I will bring my bike. Since the shop will be closed to the public while I work on Wednesdays there will plenty of space to store my bike inside.
I was a little nervous about the whole thing but I am glad I did it. The work the Thrift Shop does is so important. We recycle thousands of items, offer them at prices the people in one of the poorest areas of Winnipeg can afford, and the proceeds go to fund education programs, medical care, peacemaking efforts, water supply projects and agricultural initiatives in countries around the world.
From what I’ve been reading it’s time for us all to take some tentative steps to return to our normal lives in the safest way possible and in ways that make us comfortable. I can’t say I was totally comfortable yesterday, but it was good to do something useful and I think my comfort level will ease each week as I return.
An article in Psychology Today says that helping others makes you healthier. People over 55 who volunteer live longer, are happier and have better mental and physical health. I know I must continue to exercise caution as I volunteer because it could be dangerous, but there are also huge benefits to volunteering and I need to find the fine balance between the risks and rewards.
I think we will all be trying to figure out that fine balance in many areas of our lives in the coming weeks, months and perhaps even years.