The Wearhouse: Behind the Scenes
Watching our donors and volunteers experience our Wearhouse store for the first time is an inspiring event. Whether they stop by for a tour after dropping off donations or show up for their first volunteer shift, their reaction carries a similar tone—one of surprise and delight that they are joining a community effort in making an empowering shopping experience for youth in foster care.
The Wearhouse’s main focus is to make sure all Treehouse families have the clothing, toys, school supplies, and essential items they need but we’ve realized that the experience of receiving is equally important. Donors, volunteers, and staff work together to ensure that the Wearhouse empowers families with choice, quality items, and a positive retail environment.
The generous support of our many donors and the unwavering effort of our volunteers is one of the greatest examples of a community coming together with a common mission. It is our community that makes sure that a Treehouse child can have a new pair of pajamas or that a Treehouse teen can find the clothing that can allow them to express that part of themselves that makes them so unique. It is our community that makes sure that this store reflects current trends, brands and fashions along with the basics every kid needs.
When donations arrive at Treehouse, they are usually dropped off at our loading dock. Cars, trucks, and vans pull up, and volunteers help us unload items and bring them to our sorting area. Every donation is hand inspected and sorted by our volunteers to make sure every client has clothing they can feel really good about wearing. Like a traditional store, we keep our store full with seasonally appropriate items, and items best fit for other seasons are stored in our backstock area until they are ready for use.
Nothing that comes to the Wearhouse will go to waste. For any items that are not a good fit for our store, we gladly donate them our local Goodwill. And in return, Goodwill provides Treehouse with vouchers that we can use in their retail stores to purchase items when our inventory needs supplementing. It’s a win-win partnership!
Once items are sorted into proper size and style categories, volunteers tag and inventory each item. This helps us keep track of our inventory and keep up with our demand—last year alone, over 100,000 items passed through our store!
Finally, they are placed on carts and racks for volunteers and staff to wheel out to the store. From infants to young adults, each part of our store is merchandised for a particular age. Clothing is organized by size and style, and we even provide outfit inspiration by dressing our mannequins in the latest trends.
When clients come to shop in the store, they receive a “shopping list” with the number of items they can take home that day. Shoppers browse through our racks of clothing, try out every toy that interests them, and check the mirrors to see how they might look in that new hat. All the while volunteers are there fielding any questions clients might have and assisting them with every resource we have in our tool belts. Sometimes, even offering a personal shopper experience that can carry fashion advice for those who ask.
At the end of their shopping experience, our clients “check out” their items with a volunteers. Very similar to a checking out of any other store without the hassle of paying. Its only purpose is to allow us the opportunity to track our store inventory and ask our clients for feedback about their shopping experience that day.
When you think about every hand that’s touched an item from the time it is dropped off at our loading dock to the time it lands in a client’s shopping bag, you can really get a good picture of what kind of community it takes for a program like this to exist. Donors, volunteers, and staff all coming together to make sure that Treehouse families know that we have their backs. It takes the effort of a village to make the Wearhouse operate, but it is all worth it to see the joy on our client’s faces as they leave our store with full shopping bags.