Interview with Lani Brunn- Volunteer coordinator & Board of Directors
We had the opportunity to visit the Working Gear shop on a busy Wednesday evening. It was the first time that we visited the shop and we had a very pleasant experience chatting with some of the staff and volunteers.
Working Gear is an organization where work-ready men that lack the appropriate attire can get what they need free of cost. Working Gear Clothing Society is managed and ran by volunteers with no government funding. We interviewed Lani Bruun, who’s been a volunteer for 11 years and counting. Lani coordinates volunteers & campaigns, and she is also part of the Board of Directors.
What motivates you to volunteer at Working Gear?
For me, it’s the simplicity of our mission, it’s the fact that there this organization provides services to people who are back on their feet, who are ready for a second chance. If they don’t have the trade’s gear, if they don’t have the right interview clothes they don’t get the job. You can’t even walk into a construction site without having the steel toed boots. I almost think of it as a hinge in the door. It’s a very small piece but without it, the door does not open.
For me, the motivation is the fact that we are volunteer driven, it’s people donations, it’s really the community caring for their community.
Can you tell us a story about your time here that has stay with you?
It’s funny cause I am not in the shop as much anymore. I, probably for the first 7 years that I volunteered, I was in the shop every month. Mostly a lot of the stuff I do now is governance and support for the organization. One story that has always stayed with me is one when there was an old fellow that came one day, when I was volunteering. And he used to be a businessman, he used to have a really great life, he had a house, he had a job, he had nice clothes, but everything fell apart. He lost his way. He was an alcoholic, he ended up losing his job, he ended up losing his family. He basically lived really rough for about 10 years. When he came in that night, it was me and Stephen volunteering. We suited him up with this gorgeous suit cause he was ready, he was just ready. And he had done so much to be ready, it was his time. And he looked really good. But Stephen was like, no no no, it’s not right yet. So Stephen went and found this amazing dress jacket, with the little flaps and then he found this gorgeous expensive men’s scarf. And as soon as this fellow put it on, I watched him stand up straight, his shoulders went back. I often thought about how when he put this coat on, it felt like he was putting on dignity. And it felt like he knew he was back to he was.
How much of an impact Working Gear is making in the community?
I think we are making an impact in the community that is not huge, but it’s necessary. There are places that have tables stacked with donated clothes that people rifle through. But they don’t often find the right things, they don’t find the things that fit or they are not appropriate for an interview or for a job. I think that at Working Gear, because what’s happening here in the back, we are sorting all the clothes, we are making sure that it’s the right stuff, that they are clean. But it’s the right stuff and we make sure it’s the right people get it. The impact in the community is that people that are ready for that life change, they get to have it, they get to have their chance. Where often people wouldn’t given them a chance because they didn’t have the right interview clothes.
What can you tell potential donors about the organization, how would their money contribute the cause?
Our expenses are low, so basically for 3 or 4 grand a month, everything runs. I think it ends up costing us about 25 dollars for each person, that comes through the door. We can do all that we do for very little, there is not a lot of organizations that can say that. Also, we don’t feed funding. It’s so needed but this isn’t an area you can find funding for. And so it really needs to be the community coming together and supporting. And that’s what we find. Our donors are usually people that want to give someone a second chance. They want to give to a place where is going to make a huge difference. This money we receive goes to keep our doors open, we pay our rent, we buy steel toed boots (which are expensive) we make sure we have the right gear here.