Aaron Sawyer, like many people of faith and service, is in the life-touching business. Since becoming manager of The Closet this past January, he has found it to be one of the greatest joys of his life.
Located on Station Street in downtown Herndon, the thrift store sells used items at affordable prices and carries a history of 32 years. Sawyer is working to build on that foundation — especially the work of predecessor Leomia Brunson, who served as manager for 27 years.
Not only has Sawyer continued tradition, he has also added his own management style to the mix and has made some changes to the store's design.
With 30 years of experience in corporate America, Sawyer considers his management style to be very structured. He leads volunteers, paid staff members and directs the sales and drop-off activities for The Closet.
"We manage it, it doesn't manage us," said Sawyer on what it is like to run the store. He usually works six days per week, Monday through Saturday, sometimes from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Aside from a general leadership style, some physical changes around the store include the use of greater floor space to make room for more items. There is new shelving, and unlike the previous set-up, the children’s items are tucked in the back so young visitors are away from the front doors.
WHILE THE CLOSET'S service to the Herndon community is clear, Sawyer feels that it affects people around the world, especially first-generation immigrants who can come into the store and buy affordable goods to take home.
Sawyer attends Beacon Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Herndon, where he teaches Sunday School on a weekly basis.
Eighteen congregations, 17 Christian and one Jewish, throughout Reston, Herndon and Sterling participate in The Closet's activities.
The staff consists of 11 paid members, who recently started receiving health insurance from The Closet in fall 2004. They are assisted by an average of four volunteers per day who serve on a rotating basis.
Aside from staff salaries and the costs associated with the store's upkeep, much of the earned profits go back into the Herndon community.
The Closet presents six $5,000 scholarships every year to high-school students in the area, in addition to donating to the efforts of all-night graduation parties designed to keep recent graduates from drinking after graduation.
Donations are given to Just Neighbors, a group that provides legal services to immigrants. The Closet also donates to therapeutic writing classes for children with disabilities and to groups that provide dental services to the disadvantaged.
Yet The Closet also considers proposals from other projects or service organizations, depending on what types of requests they receive.
"It's a great way to support the community and put my Christianity to work," said Barbara Jobson of Reston, vice president of The Closet's board of directors. Jobson has been involved in The Closet for three years and attends Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon.
In the back section of the store marked "Employees Only," volunteers work to price donated items. Much of the effort involved with running the store involves preparing these items to be sold.
Clothing is sold for women, men and children. Household items include silverware, suitcases, lamps, clocks, shelves and blankets.
To the left of the store, one can find books ranging from John Grisham's "The Chamber" to A.A. Milne's "Pooh's Enchanted Place." Other entertainment items include videos, old-fashioned records, compact discs, cassettes and board games.