Each month, a volunteer at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is featured for their dedication of time and talent. This month's volunteer spotlight is:

Juana - June 2018

When you walk into the JobSmart room at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) Clothing program, you will see a beautiful space, reminiscent of Sacramento’s high-end, highly curated boutique-clothing shops and packed with dresses, suits, blouses, shoes and plenty of accessories. However, this space is unique – it provides free clothing to anyone in need of a nice outfit. Volunteers such as Juana Lopez-Rodriguez make it all possible.

Juana started volunteering at SFBFS one year ago. She is retired from working for the State of California and wanted to find a way to stay busy and give her time and talents. Helping in the Clothing program appealed to her. “The clothing literally goes from the trunk of a donor’s car into the hands of people that need it,” she comments. Soon after starting, she began to help as a personal shopper for clients in JobSmart, which provides business attire and special occasion attire. “This clothing is for anybody,” she explains. “People looking for employment, folks referred by other agencies, people looking for a fresh start, anyone. No one is turned away.”

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When Juana meets with a shopper, she likes to talk with them a little bit to get to know them and help them feel comfortable. “Some people are shy and some people feel undeserving of the nice clothing,” she says. “I love helping people feel special when they try on something new. I enjoy seeing their faces when they see themselves in the mirror.” The volunteers carefully select the clothing that goes into JobSmart and often discover designer brands and brand-new items complete with price tags. “Our shoppers are shocked that people will donate new things to help another person. It’s a very special place,” adds Juana.

Juana could easily be mistaken for a professional stylist. She is fashionably dressed and loves to help people add flair to their wardrobe. One woman returned after receiving services to thank Juana and the staff. “She said we made her feel like Beyonce,” smiles Juana. “We give everyone the special attention they deserve.”

Juana notes that everyone she has helped is different and equally important, but some people do stand out in her memory. She assisted a young man who rode in on a skateboard needing a suit for a job interview. He loved wearing a suit so much that Juana sent him home with two suits. Three sisters and their mother were in need of outfits for their other sister’s wedding. After the wedding, they sent in photos from the wedding, proudly wearing their new dresses. Juana assisted a transgender woman in need of fashion help and a self-confidence boost. A woman recently released from prison arrived feeling vulnerable and Juana helped her with clothing and encouragement.

Juana expresses kindness and acceptance to everyone she serves. She shares that she grew up in Oak Park and is the youngest of 16 kids in a blended family. At times, her family was in need of services from non-profits such as SFBFS. “It’s how we treat people that makes a difference,” reflects Juana. “We never know if we will be in the position of needing these services. We should all adopt the philosophy of paying it forward.”

When she’s not volunteering, Juana loves to travel and spend time with her friends and family. She also reaches out to her networks to request needed donations for JobSmart and to urge others to help. “I encourage everyone to think about donating their time to SFBFS or another organization that can use their time and resources.” From everyone at SFBFS, thank you Juana for your special contributions to the Clothing program! 

To find out more about how you can get involved with Clothing, check out the Clothing Web page and volunteer page.

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