Two months ago, when Share, Inc. president Victor Kimm went to the Tysons Corner Container Store to investigate organizational options for the Share food and clothing stores, he planned on purchasing some shelves and getting some basic design advice. He ended up with far more.
"They came in with some designers a couple of months ago, and they were very enthusiastic about helping us," said Kimm.
Share, Inc. is a 35-year-old, all volunteer organization based out of McLean that provides assistance to local families and individuals that have fallen on financial difficulties. Share operates a year-round food and clothing store out of the basement of McLean Baptist Church, enabling Share clients to "shop" for clothing and staple food items in a comfortable and discreet environment.
The food and clothing rooms were just that, bare rooms with food and clothing put wherever it would fit. Share planned to improve the layouts of its stores by installing a shelving system that made the best use of the spaces. When Kimm consulted the Container Store design team, the employees quickly became interested in Share and its mission. Before Kimm knew it, the Container Store decided to make the upgrade of the Share stores its own personal charity project.
"We loved this opportunity," said Scott Paul, a manager at the Container Store who worked on the project. "We came up with a plan and donated over $2,500 of product to redo their clothing room with elfa shelves, which is our best selling product."
WHILE charitable donations are nothing new for the Container Store, this one stood out for several reasons.
"This was really a huge deal for us," said Paul. "It wasn't a typical venue or venture for us because we usually focus on children's education and working with colleges… it's not often that we do a big project like this."
Paul added that Container Store contributions are most often given out in the form of gift certificates or gift cards, and that most of the big community benefits take place in Dallas, near the Container Store corporate headquarters.
"This is definitely the biggest donation that has ever been done for our particular store," said Paul.
The Container Store offers free planning to all of its customers, but for Share, the employees took it to the next level.
"We went to their site, which is not typical," said Paul. "Usually we have our customers bring in their measurements."
According to Paul, the design team came up with plans for both the food and the clothing rooms, but had to narrow the project down to one space.
"We narrowed it down to what their biggest priority was, and that was their clothing room," said Paul.
THE SITE plan was created and the product was ordered. On July 25, seven volunteers assisted with the delivery and setup. The employee volunteers met at the Container Store at 6:30 a.m., and worked at the Share store site from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
"It was a really fun project because we were going through concrete walls, and we ended up flattening four drill bits, so it was good practice," said Paul.
Employee volunteer Monica Perez said that constructing the Share clothing room gave her invaluable job experience as a "closet planner."
"It just gives us more experience by putting it up," said Perez, who has worked at the Container Store for two and a half years. "It was fun and easy."
Perez said that she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer as soon as she heard about the project.
"I thought it was a really good cause and elfa is just an awesome product," said Perez. "I own it and I know it's helped me, so I couldn't even imagine how much it could help them."
Both Share volunteers and Container Store volunteers were thrilled with the end result.
"There's a lot more space available just because it's laid out cleverly, and it will enable us to better serve the customers," said Kimm. "From our perspective it's a big improvement in the facility, it's going to allow us to provide better service to clients, and we just really appreciate it."
Share volunteers spent this past weekend moving clothes into the new space, and it is expected to be open for Share clients this week.
"They gave us more than $2,500 worth of product, and then hung it for free," said Kimm. "It was just an amazing piece of community support."