Volunteer Motivated by Love of Kids
by Nancy McCluskey-Moore
Kris Sallee moved to SaddleBrooke four years ago from San Diego. For 29 years, she worked as a bookkeeper and auditor for Vons, a grocery store chain now owned by Safeway. Before retiring, she worked in accounting for a nonprofit mental health system. For many of her working years, Kris was also a single mother of a son and a daughter.
Kris learned about SaddleBrooke Community Outreach (SBCO) from a friend who told her there was a “local children’s charity.” With no grandchildren of her own, Kris saw this as an opportunity to help young children thrive. She plunged in, becoming the buyer for adult-sized clothing for the Kids’ Closet’s fall season and “SUE” (socks, underwear, and essentials like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes) for both the spring and fall seasons. Now she also serves as the Kids’ Closet Thursday day co-manager (along with Bea Dilahunt) in both spring and fall. Each session lasts for approximately 10 weeks.
As a day-manager, she is responsible for labeling plastic bags with the children’s names and attaching them, along with each child’s information sheet, to a clipboard. The sheet provides basic information about the child, including name, age, grade in school and – if the child has come to Kids’ Closet before – his/her most recent clothing and shoe sizes. At the end of each Thursday session, Kris and Bea assemble and review each child’s paperwork for completeness prior to submitting it to Marcia Van Omeran for data entry. Kris credits Michelle Schroeder, who manages and trouble shoots the point-of-sale system used to track Kids’ Closet inventory, with being “tactful and caring” when problems arise.
According to Kris, all the benefits she receives from her volunteer work with Kids’ Closet far exceed the effort involved. “You can see the need right in front of you. The kids come in wearing clothing from past seasons, so you know they appreciated what they were given. I feel blessed to be able to do this work.” Her time at “The Closet” has yielded some memorable moments. “The pre-K kids are always a joy. They are enchanted by the whole concept of choosing their shoes and clothing. One little girl put on a full outfit of new clothes, stood in front of the mirror and declared, “It’s perfect!” One time when some first graders came for clothing, there was confusion about names. A little girl was worried her name wouldn’t be called. She said, “I have been waiting my WHOLE LIFE to come here.” She was the last to shop, but certainly among the happiest to board the bus, laden with a bag filled with new shoes and clothing.
Kris encourages others to volunteer for SBCO and the Kids’ Closet program. “Across the board, everything is managed efficiently, ensuring that volunteers can be effective and the programs succeed.”