Sorting with Room To Grow

25 Mar

What: sort through donated clothing, through New York Cares

Where: Room to Grow, East Midtown

When: Tuesday, 5:30-7:30pm

Room to Grow is a Manhattan-based non-profit supporting babies in poverty throughout their first three years of life, providing parents with one-on-one parenting support and essential baby items throughout their children’s critical stages of development. As such, they receive a LOT of donations from the generous public, large corporations, and retail stores; someone needs to go through everything and separate the good from the bad, and definitely get rid of the ugly. That’s where you come in, new volunteer!

When you first arrive at Room to Grow, you’ll take a seat on the couch and listen to some simple instructions. Since they have so many different offerings there (toys, clothing, books,etc), your instructions may be different than mine but the idea is the same: keep anything that looks new, get rid of anything you wouldn’t buy in a store yourself. Our task for the night was to do a preliminary sorting of clothing donations, separating everything by age and taking out anything that wasn’t wearable. It wasn’t difficult, and the time flew by as I picked through bag after bag of adorable baby clothing. Anything that I was unsure of, I held up and waited for one of the staff or head volunteers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. The simple, repetitive task was actually one of the most calming activities I’ve participated in after a long day of work, second only to my brownie-stuffing experience at God’s Love We Deliver. My foot falling asleep every 5 minutes was the only reminder that I was, in fact, still conscious- otherwise, it was quite meditative.

The place itself was immaculate (get a 3D tour here), and I think I’d actually prefer to shop for clothing here than in a retail store; its a relaxed, organized environment with everything one would need to outfit a baby for a few years, all in one room. Also, its free (which is a pretty amazing deal). They are also VERY thorough; after our initial sort, the next group will give everything a second look before putting it on the rack. Anything that doesn’t make the cut moves further down the donation chain; Good Will and the Salvation Army for the less than perfect items, and those that can’t be salvaged? Their fate is to become insulation for houses. Other things to know:

  • Be prepared to sit on the floor for two hours, or at the very least, be hunched over a pile of donations for an extended period of time (read: bad back or bad knees-> call before going to see what the day’s project is).
  • If you’ve got baby fever but aren’t ready to have a baby, do not volunteer here. The power of tiny outfits on a woman is bizarre and the enigmatic force thrives here, so beware. I mean, have you seen how tiny those shoes are?!
  • If you donate, know that anything you give will in some way be used, by someone, or something. However, if your kid has a propensity for spaghetti flinging and drooling uncontrollably (pretty much sums up my childhood…and college), and now you’re looking to get rid of their “gently used” vomit-covered onesies, give it to someone else. Room to Grow only uses like-new donations, and for good reason.
  • This isn’t just a place for poverty-stricken women to pick out cute outfits; it’s a lot more than that. Its a support system made up social workers, providing information and necessities to parents who have been referred by a selected group of prenatal programs in the city. For more information, visit their website. And of course, you can volunteer directly with them.
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