This guest post is provided by Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) who covers London and the South East. She talks fondly of turning her vision to help a worthwhile cause into reality for NOW National Organising Week 2016.
Dress for Success is a global charity that empowers women who have fallen on hard times by providing them with a network of support, professional attire and the developmental tools to thrive. The ultimate aim is for women to achieve economic independence. Women are trained and prepared for interviews and, on getting work provided with a free capsule wardrobe and ongoing support.
Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd) had the idea of APDO members volunteering as a team, and five other APDO members jumped at the chance to lend their time and expertise. ‘We initially reached out to this charity to support them, as we could see obvious synergies between APDO members decluttering surplus clothing in our clients wardrobes and DfS kitting out women to face the corporate world. However,once we arrived onsite and saw the extent of their inventory, we realised that what they needed more than anything else was volunteer time, organisational experience and cash to reach the women who need them most! Even after our visit that need still applies’
The Dress for Success Greater London branch had moved premises during October and were still overwhelmed, with over 300 boxes of clothes, shoes and accessories filling their new East London stock room to the ceiling. Fionnuala Shannon, Director of Operations & Programmes at DfS Greater London, had been delighted at the offer of some assistance from APDO
‘We receive generous donations of end of season clothing from high street retailers including Next, Eileen Fisher, Marks and Spencer, Mulberry, Viyajiyu and JD Williams but were struggling to deliver our usual professional service to our clients from our new HQ. We loved the vibrancy that the APDO team brought that day; now we can quickly find any surplus stock items to sell in our monthly sales to the general public, which raises more funds for DfS Greater London’
Nancy DeBroka (The Zen Home), Julie Stevens (Younique Designs Ltd), Sarah Bickers (Free Your Space), Caroline Rogers (Room To Think) and Ingrid Jansen (Organise Your House) joined Katherine to blitz the stockroom on 8 November. In order to maximise the teams contribution on the day, Katherine had spent an evening with Sheila Nilsson, DfS Greater London’s Boutique and Volunteers Manager, measuring and designing the new layout and checking shelving inventory. Nancy had organised APDO branded T-shirts and aprons to reflect the teamwork and camaraderie of the UK’s industry organising experts. We all admitted that with six independent organisers in a small room there was potential for clashes of opinions on how to get the job done, but it was heart-warming to see how we all pulled together,
Ingrid explains ‘Being natural organisers, each of us spotted what they could do next and simply took on a role to keep us moving forwards. I was so proud to see my members working in harmony together like this, and for such a great cause. I’d love to do something like this every year, and to see similar charity events happen across the UK for NOW 2017.
In the spirit of such collaboration, Julie took on the role of our social media onsite rep, liaising with Kate Ibbotson (A Tidy Mind & APDO Head of PR & Social Media) and running Facebook Live videos during the day. Caroline volunteered for the less enviable task of opening, identifying and labelling all the ‘magical mystery’ boxes we’d had to drag outside in the cold. This gave Sarah the space inside to become such an expert at building clothing racks that she could nail a round of Crystal Maze blindfolded if that task arose! Caroline and Sarah then organised and re-packed the shed with all their surplus stock – a real Tetris task! Nancy single-handedly matched and arranged over 100 pairs of shoes on the racks she’d just built. Meanwhile Ingrid freed the kitchen of clothing as early as possible to keep us all easily refreshed, and kept us on track in order to have cleared everything from the outside courtyard before dusk fell. And Katherine, having done so well to pull the day and the team together somehow managed to get squished between two racks of clothes as they were enthusiastically moved to their new location on the floor plan she’d designed!
As you can probably tell, we all had a great giggle and thoroughly enjoyed working together. As Sarah said, ‘Most of us usually work solo with our clients so this was a great opportunity to feel a part of something bigger, to get to know some APDO members more personally, and to do something really productive and worthwhile at the same time.’ Caroline reflected that the day was ‘typical of my own experience of working in the voluntary sector where organisations are often under resourced. It felt very worthwhile to give our time to a place where it was so valued and relevant.
And Dress for Success Greater London are still enjoying the experience too emailing us with this afterwards:
‘I wanted to say a big Thank You to your wonderful organisation, APDO. You have certainly allowed us to be more functional and practical, which saves us time, energy and frustration when looking for items for our clients. Who would have believed when you all came to sort our space, declutter and organise our storage room that you would have achieved this in five hours? You are all truly amazing and we are very grateful to APDO for making Dress for Success a de-cluttered success’!
*Boutique and Volunteer Manager*
There really is no task which APDO members find too overwhelming. They simply want to help you make positive change to your space. If you would benefit from their expertise, find an organiser near you. Or if you’re a natural organiser, find out more about joining APDO and our training opportunities.