A Holiday Boutique Success Story
Sojourner supporter, Jackie, shares her experience walking a client through the boutique...
I’ve volunteered and worked at Sojourner for many years, since I was eleven, actually. I would help with tearing down the holiday boutique, returning toys and gifts to the storage closet and re-assembling the boardroom to look as it normally does, twelve leather chairs surrounding one oval table. My cousins and I made it fun, pushing each other down the hallway in the chairs and loading as many things up in the elevator before pressing the button and racing downstairs to beat it before the doors opened. I stacked toys, toiletries, books, and clothes, putting them away to be used throughout the year. At only eleven years old, I didn’t have a true understanding yet of what the boutique did for the women of Sojourner.
This past year, I was able to start walking women through the boutique on my own. At twenty-one years old, I now understand what it means to pick out toys and beauty products, a teddy bear tied to a blanket, the kind of things people cannot afford to splurge on, especially during the holiday season. Last year, we had one woman come through the boutique, I’ll call her S. S came in with her two grandsons, all of them in clothes that had seen their fair share of wear. S was extremely polite and gracious, and her two grandsons were quiet and respectful, content to sit in our waiting area while their grandma picked out gifts for them. While I took S through the boutique, one of our administrators, Laura, sat with the boys to check in on them and see how they were doing.
S was taken aback by the sheer fullness of the room. Every year, we fill the boutique with more donations than we have room for, and the rest spills into our storage spaces. People from different communities groups, religious organizations and businesses donate. People themselves donate singularly, and we are so grateful for their generosity. With S, we worked our way around each table, collecting sports equipment first before moving to the toys area. S stopped, put down the toy she was holding, and raised her hands to her mouth. I could see tears in her eyes as she looked around before looking at me.
“God bless you,” she said, “you have no idea what this means to me and my boys. I’m doing the best I can to provide for them and this is going to absolutely make their Christmas.” In my time at the boutique, I have always felt invested in making sure women get everything they need and that they leave feeling their holidays will be special. However, I had never worked with someone who could not stop praising me, praising the boutique, and praising Sojourner.
I do not say no very easily to clients when they walk through the boutique. I know we have more than enough to go around, and if they see something they like or want, I add it to their pile. In my mind, everything is donated for that exact reason, to be used and gifted, so why not take as much as you need while you can. In that moment, I knew there was no way I could stop myself from offering her anything she wanted, despite having filled our cart up completely.
Once we were finally done, she gave me a huge hug and thanked me again. She let me know how much it meant to her and her boys, telling me the story of why she needed what she needed. When we headed down to get her grandsons, Laura was there and the entirety of the snack cabinet was sitting on the table in front of them. They were both eating Pringles, the younger one holding a coloring page in his free hand. Laura looked at S and me before shrugging her shoulders, simply stating, “they were hungry, and we have snacks.” S broke down in that moment, hugging us and blessing us again. We loaded up their trunk with the gifts and snacks before wishing her the best and happy holidays.
After, Laura and I spent a long time in her office debriefing that moment. That was a year ago, and since then I’ve spent time with many different women who come through Sojourner. That moment still comes back to me, and I think of it often when the holidays roll around. Sojourner does not exist for praise or recognition. We are here to increase safety and stability for those who need it. Simply put, everyone deserves a happy birthday, a merry holiday, or just a good day in general. If the holiday boutique helps women leave with a smile on their face, feeling good about themselves and the holidays, then we know we’ve done our job right. That is what the holidays are all about around here.
We are incredibly grateful for the support Sojourner receives during the holiday season. Unfortunately, domestic violence occurs year-round and our shelter is regularly at capacity. If you want to be a part of the work Sojourner does, please consider visiting our Amazon registry, making a financial donation or becoming a volunteer.