*This post was adapted from a student essay by Tanner Colclasure.
I was fortunate to arrange a conversation with Dawn Ruest, Assistant Manager at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Bloomington. Dawn is a caring, diligent server of those who rely on assistance provided through civic engagement. She provided me with an insightful, first-hand perspective of the nonprofit employment experience, which I hope to live out myself after I graduate from ISU.
Dawn used to work in for-profit retail, which allowed her to her pay bills, but was not as fulfilling as she wanted her occupation to be. She began by accepting a part-time role at the Habitat ReStore in order to serve a purpose higher and work for the well-being of others. She eventually moved into a full-time Assistant Manager position, which allows her to oversee individual volunteers and dedicate her daily efforts to helping others.
One challenge for Dawn of working in the nonprofit sector is finding it difficult and disappointing when she wants to help customers who simply cannot afford the prices listed in the store. The ReStore’s purpose is two-fold—to offer affordable prices for quality goods to those who could not otherwise afford them, but also to provide as much financial support as possible to Habitat for Humanity of McLean County to build homes with local families in need. Instead of giving way to guilt or self-blame, Dawn reminds herself to trust the store’s system in place, which ensures the lowest prices possible for purchase, especially the longer they stay in the store.
I asked Dawn to share her plans for the future, especially whether she intends to remain in the nonprofit sector. Dawn expressed having no intention of leaving the field, as her experiences in the for-profit job world have not allowed her this same fulfilling, enriching opportunity to help others.
Thoughts About Entering the Nonprofit Sector
I found all of Dawn’s thoughts on her experiences in the nonprofit sector to be incredibly reassuring, as it seems she has found certain aspects of a career that I also hope to find. Dawn’s call to the nonprofit sector was similar to the pull that I feel to commit myself to civic engagement. My sociology courses have exposed me to the rampant consequences of inequality, which are combatted by organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Just as Dawn did when she joined Habitat, I would like to commit myself to an organization that exists to protect disadvantaged members of our society. Her account of the most significant challenge she faces reassured me that people who assume these nonprofit positions work on a basis of empathy. I hope to one day accept a position such as this, that allows me to act upon my empathy toward those who struggle.
Dawn also described her idea of an ideal nonprofit employee. I found comfort in it for two reasons. First, because I feel that with more experience, I will be able to strengthen each of these qualities in myself. While becoming the ideal nonprofit employee will not be easy, it does seem feasible for me to work toward. I also found this description comforting because Dawn outlined the type of employee with whom I would like to work. If this is the kind of character that nonprofits seek in their employees, then it sounds like I may one day be part of a team of pleasant, motivated coworkers.