Each year SaddleBrooke Community Outreach (SBCO) recognizes the outstanding service provided by one or two of its volunteers. This year the SBCO board of directors chose Pat and Jim Schlote as the organization’s 2020 Volunteers of the Year for their tireless work on behalf of the Kids’ Closet program.
Pat began working as a community volunteer in 2011 when she and Jim relocated to SaddleBrooke from Colorado. While their home was being built, Pat began working with Kids’ Closet as a warehouse re-stocker and for the Golden Goose Thrift Store, a significant source of income for SBCO. In 2016, Jim started working for Kids’ Closet, transporting clothing from SaddleBrooke to the warehouse in Mammoth.
Pat’s involvement with Kids’ Closet led to her serving as co-manager of the Kids’ Closet warehouse for the past eight years, a job that has grown along with the number of students served. In 2012, Kids’ Closet moved from a dilapidated old school in San Manuel to its own facility in Mammoth. More than half of the “big red building on the hill” is filled with the program’s shoe and clothing inventory—all carefully stored in labeled bins and boxes.
For years Kids’ Closet purchasing and receiving processes, as well as its inventory, were tracked using Excel spreadsheets. At the end of each year resolving discrepancies between the items received, distributed, and on hand in the “workbook” was a time-consuming effort.
In 2017, Jim began helping to manage the inventory tracking spreadsheet.
With the growth in the overall program, the Kids’ Closet leadership team knew that continuing to use the spreadsheets for a program that distributes approximately 3,000 wardrobes per year has become untenable. Completing tasks had become challenging for the team and made it almost impossible to recruit their replacements.
In the summer of 2018, the leadership team began investigating a point of sale (POS) system to manage operations. This system would permit the tracking of each item of clothing (via a bar code label) from the time it is received until it is distributed to a student. This project was an ideal fit for Jim, who had spent 15 years in various global IT management roles, and Pat, versed in all aspects of managing the shoes and clothing distributed by Kids’ Closet. By June 2019, the new system was up and running—after all the data was entered and more than 20,000 items in inventory had been tagged with barcode labels. The POS system has streamlined Kids’ Closet operations, making the volunteer experience significantly better for everyone on the leadership team.
Pat and Jim agree that volunteering has given them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Jim noted, “It’s great to feel that your skills are needed and wanted. An unpaid job can be very rewarding!” Pat stressed that there is joy in helping children and their families. “There is such a great need. It’s very humbling. One little boy was so delighted to have underwear that he jumped up and down with glee.” Both say that volunteering has been a great way to make a lot of new friends, gain skills, and become part of a hard-working team dedicated to helping children.
There are many ways to become a SBCO volunteer. Helping to dress children at Kids’ Closet, tutoring students in local schools, serving on the education committee, supporting the Walkathon and Home Tour fundraising events, wrapping holiday presents for Adopt-a-Family, or working in the SBCO office are all options. To learn more, please visit the SBCO website, community-outreach.org.