The last time you were at ThriftSmart, did you notice anyone walking around in a red vest? These wonderful people are our volunteers. Some are here for a short time, and some stay for years, but all of them are incredibly valuable to ThriftSmart. Volunteers serve over 900 hours a month at our Nashville store alone and these hours lead to significantly reduced labor costs. The substantial impact from volunteers allows us to donate even more money to our charities.
April is National Volunteer Month and in recognition of that, we wanted to take some time to sit down with one of the fantastic people who volunteer with us. We spoke with Gary Johnson, who has been volunteering with our Nashville store since last fall, and he told us his story.
Gary begins most mornings around 4:30 A.M. with a textbook. Currently working on earning his GED, he spends his mornings studying a wide range of topics from physics to history to English to geometry. Gary also suffers from kidney failure and is currently trying to get on the transplant list at Vanderbilt. Because of his illness, Gary has to go to dialysis three times a week. It’s safe to say Gary stays busy. Even though Gary is currently going through one of life’s storms, he still finds a way to thank God, because as he says, “I know God is making me stronger through this.”
In the midst of all this, Gary also volunteers at ThriftSmart three days a week. If you ever find yourself looking for a replacement power cord or a bargain AV cable, Gary is the man to thank. Gary takes all the donated cables and cords and organizes them by function to make everyone’s shopping experience convenient and easy.
When asked about ThriftSmart, Gary mentioned how he was overwhelmed by the size when he first entered the building and how comfortable he felt around the employees in the Christian atmosphere. Although Gary spends much of his time in and out of kidney dialysis centers he says, “Sometimes I get sad, but being here at ThriftSmart makes me joyful.” Next time you’re in Nashville, don’t forget to stop by the electronics department and meet Gary for yourself, and you’ll see what we mean.
Gary has a lot of plans for his future. As Gary says, “I’m very ambitious, I always want to do better.” Once he receives his GED he plans to attend college. While he doesn’t know what he wants to get a degree in yet, he knows that whatever career path he takes, he wants to care for people. No matter where Gary ends up, we know he will be a blessing and encouragement as he is to us here. In his words, “That’s what I like to do: Encourage.”
And encourage he does! In our assistant manager, Rhonda’s words, “Gary is an inspiration to everyone. Even though he has some of the worst illnesses imaginable, he has the happiest attitude and makes everyone around him happy. He’s absolutely made a huge difference with the [electrical] cords in the back going from a tangled mess to an organized department.”
Gary connected with ThriftSmart through our partnership with the National Council on Aging. NCOA enables people over the age of 55 to volunteer with an organization and receive payment through NCOA to supplement their Social Security Benefits.
Are you interested in volunteering at ThriftSmart? If so, you can sign up via Hands on Nashville or via our website. We accept groups and individuals. Questions? Feel free to contact our volunteer coordinator, Grecia, at (615) 833-8200 ext. 21.