Marketing pro from Hoffman Estates puts skills to use helping victims of domestic violence
Volunteers are defined by their willingness and effort to help others, but some have the particular know-how to do a task best.
For Mary McLeod of Hoffman Estates, that know-how comes from 23 years as a visual marketer for Sears. She puts those skills to use displaying donated items at the WINGS Resale Store in Schaumburg, keeping them moving off the shelves and raising money for the important cause of sheltering victims of domestic violence.
McLeod spends the better part of every Saturday redesigning the layout of the items for sale. She often can see the effectiveness of her marketing skills firsthand, with some items heading out the door within 10 minutes of being strategically positioned on a table or shelf.
"We get a lot of compliments from the customers," McLeod said.
She especially was touched by one patron's comparison of the store's presentation to a Macy's department store.
Store manager Charlie Williams considers anything McLeod might say about her abilities to be an understatement.
"When it comes to Mary, our store would absolutely not be the same without her," Williams said. "I call it 'Mary's Magic.' Our regular customers tell us this feels more like a retail store than a resale store."
Though Williams said it's difficult to assign a number to how McLeod's work affects sales volume, he's certain it's "greatly."
"She gives her everything to us," Williams said. "She's so valuable to me and us as a store. I can't imagine not having Mary there."
McLeod, whose employment with Sears ended when it merged with Kmart in 2005, created her role from scratch after walking into the store as a customer in 2014. Her interest in helping came through the experience of a friend who took a while to free herself from an abusive relationship.
"I told her, 'Your life is never going to be what you want it to be until you make that move,'" McLeod said. "And she did."
She learned more about domestic violence during training she received to be a volunteer for Palatine-based WINGS, which stands for Women In Need Growing Stronger. The impact on children was especially eye-opening, she said.
"Your heart goes out to these women," McLeod said. "They go into these shelters with nothing but the clothes on their backs."
While WINGS CEO Rebecca Darr has spoken of the danger domestic violence victims face through the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, those same social-distancing protocols kept the WINGS resale stores closed and unable to raise money for the still-operating shelters until early this month.
Williams said the resale division of WINGS was losing more than $200,000 in revenue per month during the shutdown.
"I want to say the cause is great, and we need more donations than ever," McLeod said.
WINGS Manager of Volunteer Services Bruna Srb said McLeod always has prioritized giving back to her community through such organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Home of the Sparrow, PADS of Elgin and the PADS Shelter Program run by Journeys|The Road Home. But she told Srb WINGS offered a particular opportunity to put her talents behind a meaningful cause.
"She's one of our faithful ones," Srb said. "She's very passionate about the mission that we have, and very invested."
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