Newport News ReStore Volunteer Finds Joy in Giving Back
Jenny McCauley didn’t have a plan after retiring from Dominion Energy after 37 years.
One of her favorite hobbies was shopping or what she calls “treasure hunting,” seeking out special finds in consignment and thrift shops. Jenny was such a regular at the Habitat ReStore in Newport News that on the suggestion of the manager, she agreed it would be an ideal place to volunteer.
For the last six years, Jenny has volunteered two full days twice a week, helping out in housewares and setting up vignettes — furniture and accessories grouped together as they would be in the room of a house.
“There’s jobs for every level of difficulty; you don’t have to move furniture,” Jenny says. “There’s all kinds of things to do at the ReStore.”
One of Jenny’s favorite parts of the volunteer work is that she’s able to do it alongside a good friend. The two women chitchat while sorting and displaying items, all the while knowing that their volunteer efforts support their community. Proceeds from gently used furniture, appliances and other items sold at the ReStore benefit the mission of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg. The nonprofit builds homes and sells them through its Homebuyer Program to qualifying families.
Inventory is constantly changing, so many ReStore shoppers stop by to browse several times during the week. Jenny will often point out certain items that she knows will appeal to specific shoppers. “One customer likes books, especially biographies about history,” she says. “I put ones I think he will like in a cart and usually he takes the whole cart.”
Jenny has also been able to add to her own collection of flower frogs and map measurers or instruments that gauge distance on maps by working at the ReStore. She had never seen a map measure before working there and decided it was a fun and small enough item to collect. “I’ve found three of those over the years at the ReStore,” she says.
Jenny became familiar with Habitat’s mission while working as a budget analyst and training manager at Dominion, which gives employees one paid day off per year to volunteer. The group Jenny worked with liked being hands-on, so she volunteered with them at Habitat builds and repair blitzes.
Today as a ReStore volunteer, she often gets to know the families who are putting in their sweat equity — volunteer hours that homebuyers or their family members must complete as part of the homebuying process. “One of the women I’ve gotten to know comes in after working all night; it’s inspiring to see the effort homebuyers go through to complete the steps to own their own home,” she says. “The day we opened the store, a woman was there with her two children sitting out front. She was close to buying her house. She thanked all of us as we walked in the door.”
Jenny enjoys going to the Habitat dedication ceremonies where Chief Executive Officer Janet V. Green always makes a point to recognize the dedication of the ReStore volunteers. Jenny encourages retirees to consider volunteering at the ReStore as a means to stay active, and she believes younger volunteers could benefit from the work experience that can help fill out a resume.
“Everybody can do something,” she says.
That includes donating. Jenny recently downsized her jewelry collection and put multiple items for sale at the ReStore.
Bonus advantage to volunteering: steps! If you’ve retired and wear a fitness device, volunteering at the ReStore can boost your daily step count.
Interested in becoming a ReStore volunteer at the Newport News ReStore? Click here.