The Monday Morning Gals: EveryStep Giving Tree Volunteers

No one ever has a case of the "Mondays" at EveryStep Giving Tree. Step inside the Urbandale thrift store on any given Monday morning and you're bound to be greeted with the sounds of laughter.

That's because the “Monday morning gals,” as the quintet of volunteers call themselves, aren't just sorting, pricing and placing items on the sales floor, they're hanging out with friends. 

The long-time volunteers, Gai Shields, Sheila Gleason, Mardell Oakley, Ruth Wallace, and Marlene Wiese each joined EveryStep Giving Tree for different reasons, but it's the camaraderie and downright fun that keeps them coming back. 

In fact, it was the laughter that first drew Mardell to EveryStep Giving Tree.

"I came by the shop and heard the laughter. That's all it took. I've been here ever since," she says of her nine years volunteering at the thrift store.

Gai says she always wanted to support hospice care – one of the many non-profit services offered by the EveryStep organization.

"They just did so many things for my family and friends," she says. Ten years ago, she was driving by the Urbandale store and saw a "Help Wanted" sign. She stopped and chatted with store manager, Cheryll Halstead. 

The rest is history, she's been working Monday mornings ever since.

"I've seen this place grow. I can't praise it enough," Gai said. "It's a great way to help and make friends."

Mardell agrees, noting that the merchandise in the store is a "first class, and a cut above." 

In fact, when the ladies sort the clothing, if they find items that are ripped or don't meet EveryStep Giving Tree's needs, they are donated to St. Vincent de Paul, where the items are shipped to other countries in need. 

Mardell and Gai are joined in the backroom by Sheila, the resident newbie with two years under her belt.

"I had just moved to Iowa to be closer to my daughter. My friend’s father had been at Kavanagh House on 56th and his family had such good things to say," she says.

Sheila, who had previously been an active volunteer in Omaha visiting children as a clown for The Make A Wish Foundation, was searching for a new place to help out.

"This was perfect," she said of finding a volunteer opportunity at EveryStep Giving Tree.

While Mardell, Sheila, and Gai are busy sorting, cleaning, tagging and prepping items for the sales floor, Marlene and Ruth are in the front, greeting customers, helping them shop and running the register. 

"Gai and I used to work together and she always wanted Mondays off to go volunteer. I was intrigued. So I started, too," Ruth says.

Ruth, who has worked at the store for nine year, says it's been fun watching the store grow, meeting new customers, and, of course, making new friends.

"I love working with these Monday gals," she says.

Marlene, who has also volunteered for nine years, couldn't agree more.

"It's just a great atmosphere," she says, noting that she volunteers several days a week, and has even recruited her granddaughters to help on occasion.

The ladies are always hard at work ensuring the store is stocked with new merchandise and the customers are taken care of, but they still have time for a little fun. 

Stop by and you'll find them in the front, shopping for each other and prepping for their monthly lunch dates. 

"We do buy a lot," Gai admits. 

If you're interested in volunteering, the gals don't hesitate to recommend EveryStep Giving Tree.  

"Do it!" Sheila said. "It will make you feel good. You know you're doing something worthwhile. And you'll meet great people." 

If you're interested in volunteer opportunities with EveryStep Giving Tree thrift store, visit our website and complete our volunteer application.