This blog is part of our Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice series offered this Fall.
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
Forget Christmas, for me Fall is the most exciting time of the year! For some it’s a time crack open school books and make new friends, for others a time to harvest, shore up for the Winter, light fires and cozy up indoors. Nature rolls out a tapestry of yellows and reds and days start to get shorter. The coffee shops roll out the pumpkin spice lattes, muffins and other treats, Halloween decorations start to creep up in early September and – my favourite – the shoe shops finally put the high-heeled boots out on display.
This year my attention is on a different type of boot though, the type with a steel-toe best accessorized with a hard hat. I started volunteering as a recruitment coordinator with Habitat for Humanity in the Spring. Habitat, for the uninitiated, is a world-renowned, US-based charitable organization with a very humble, basic purpose: to build decent, well-constructed homes for deserving families and provide a sense of dignity, humanity and community in the process. Not only are the homes built entirely out of donated materials and volunteer building crews, the families for whom they are built are also expected to put “sweat equity” into the build. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbours, strangers (not for long) all wield hammers, nails, power saws and screwdrivers alongside each other for months on end until a house takes shape and a dream slowly reaches fulfillment. Habitat also operates a number of outlets where donated building supplies and home décor are sold and that’s where I come in. The Milton ReStore opened to great fanfare and great mishap earlier this year when it was vandalized during its opening weekend. Still, as they say in Tinsel town, there’s no such thing as bad press and the stolen losses were quickly restocked with generous donations from the big box hardware stores.
Staffing issues at the store, like with most volunteer opportunities, is sporadic. Even for a small hamlet like Milton, it amazes me how people going about their weekend chores and shuttling the kiddies to karate class and altogether miss the giant blue, white and green signs on the former Canada Post office just off Main Street. So it was time to do something about that and a plan was hatched to hold a recruitment event to draw the throngs from the Saturday farmer’s market towards the store. Most people park right in front of the store before wandering off to haul in farm fresh goodies, so why not lure them towards the store with a table full of chocolates and a warm smile? We even found a nice Miltonian to donate a big bunch of blue, green and white balloons!
I’ve worked in corporate recruiting before and the ABC sales mantra “Always Be Closing” was always an undercurrent flowing through every gesture and thought and utterance to clients and candidates. On this sunny Saturday morning, however, I felt relaxed, confident, ready with my forms and 30 second sell for Habitat and the store. In turn, I must have inspired confidence in those I met because over the space of a couple of hours, my colleague and I met with several enthusiastic locals who signed up for shifts at the store and made mental notes to donate their household fixtures and furniture in the future instead of leaving them out on a curb.
We plied them with chocolates and brochures and, after we packed up shop, headed down to the neighbourhood coffee joint for celebratory lattes. The featured drink was a White Chocolate Pumpkin Mocha, cinnamon sticks pictured not included. The larger than life glass cup, brimming with delicious Fall goodness, looked like a warm, inviting, giant foamy mocha bath. I wanted to wrap the banner around my shoulders like an afghan but the barista was eyeing me silently and politely waiting for my order.
White Chocolate, Pumpkin, and Mocha – that enigmatic subtle blend of chocolate and coffee – are all pretty unique and powerful on their own. Yet someone thought to combine them into a sweet, satisfying and spicy super drink which is warm, potent and satisfying. As I stood in line I looked around the crowded little coffee shop and thought about the teamwork of flavour and the combination of caffeine and sugar increasing the productivity of the organization, or rather the organism (me).
I took in the satisfied customers milling about, the cash flow from paying customers to staff, the little microcosm of commerce and industry. I savoured the flavours of chocolate and pumpkin spice in my mind and let them wash over me like the warm colours of Fall outside. The diversity of the ingredients in the cup emerged as a metaphor for the young and elderly clientele who filled the little coffee shop as well as the Habitat store down the street and the committee of volunteers I worked with.
Here was a diverse and unique bunch of mostly women, all highly skilled and accomplished professionals with a wide network of resources who were lending their time and expertise to recruit skilled merchandisers and crew leaders for building homes little town I now choose to call home. I was heady with delight at all the little connections and how it made up the thread of our society and humanity. Strength and goodness meeting their counterparts, working for a greater good: it warms me on the inside.
I’m an emerging HR professional whose day job is in Finance at a downtown Toronto law firm. I guest-blog about my dogs and food. I enjoy creative writing and meeting new people and can be reached at email@example.com.