When it comes to nonprofits and volunteering in the Omaha community, Tracy Wells is one of the first names that comes to mind.
She's been giving back to the community since her high school days, and started volunteering in the late 1990s at Tip Top Thrift Shop in Benson. She also served on the Tip Top board starting in 2000 and became board president in 2010.
Tip Top is a regular supporter of YES -- contributing all proceeds from sales to help youth experiencing homelessness in the community.
Tracy is and always will be a great friend to YES. Read below to learn more about her and her great dedication to the community.
What drew you to volunteer there?
I worked for Uta Halee Girls Village. Tip Top benefited Uta Halee before they closed. I felt this was an important way to get to know and get involved with this group that had given so much to Uta Halee Girls Village.
Were you aware of YES before volunteering at Tip Top?
I knew about YES previously. One of my first obligations as board president was to find a new charitable cause for Tip Top after the closure of Uta Halee. We interviewed 3-5 nonprofits and chose YES to be the nonprofit to receive the shop's proceeds.
Tip Top is unique in that the board owns the building and has for a long time. We selected YES as our charity, but Tip Top Thrift Shop is not owned by YES. I think that dynamic really makes for a unique relationship and a valued partnership.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I have always felt it is important to do what you can when you can. Volunteering has been very important to me. I have been fortunate to have some really neat opportunities to serve.
Volunteering really helped expand my leadership skills. I certainly didn’t go into it with that idea, but I have learned and grown a great deal.
What does it mean to you to know that the work you do helps YES and homeless youth in our community?
It’s all about what you can do to help someone else! I love that YES encourages these young people to move forward in their lives in their own direction and supports them in their journey. YES meets them where they are and helps them set goals for their future and gets them on the right path to reach them.
Where else do you volunteer? Do you have specific causes you like to support?
I currently serve as a volunteer within Saving Grace’s Community Engagement Committee. I read to kids as a Book Buddy through Partnership 4 Kids, serve as a Do Space volunteer through their Cyber Senior program and of course volunteer weekly at Tip Top Thrift Shop -- that amazing little ‘boutique’ in Benson!
Tip Top is completely volunteer-run. What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering and supporting Tip Top?
We are a very unique shop -- all of our proceeds except for what it costs to run the shop (lights, water, heat, insurance, etc.) go to YES. There are no paid staff at Tip Top. It is totally powered by volunteers.
Volunteers donate, sort and hang clothes, price and put items out for sale and of course, shop at Tip Top. We are an independent charitable business that benefits YES. Each month, Tip Top donates $2,500 to YES and two times a year the Board reviews our excess funds and determines what we can additionally donate.
Tip Top not only donates sales proceeds to YES but also allows YES youth to shop there free of charge. Does this play into your continued volunteer work there?
Absolutely! I love the fact that we can help on multiple levels! Youth can come in for clothes. This year they weren’t able to do their usual holiday shopping at YES due to the pandemic and safety issues. We hosted a holiday shopping event and a soup supper so they could find gifts for family and friends.
One day when I happened to be at the shop, a YES youth came in wanting to start out in his own apartment. We pulled together some great starter things -- dishes, pots and pans and some fun decorative things that made his new space feel homey. I love that we can assist in a wide variety of ways!
Anything I didn't ask that you'd like to include/mention?
I am one of many at Tip Top. I volunteer with a tremendous team of folks that really have done amazing things to keep the shop humming. We all follow in some pretty amazing footsteps. We have volunteers that are still active and vibrant volunteering into their 90’s.
I believe that volunteering helps keep us young and fun. During the pandemic when we reopened in June 2020, several shoppers mentioned that this is a place they come to relax and have fun. They said it was therapeutic for them to come into Tip Top, and when we were closed, they really missed it!
There is little we can control in the world, but the one thing we can do is create a warm and inviting experiences at Tip Top the day we volunteer. We work to greet our shoppers, volunteers and donors warmly and make sure they know how valued they are!