I have a really bad habit of applying to things.
I have this habit where I click on website to “look into their job opportunities” or “consider what the competition is all about” and then I’m hooked. They get you with the easy questions first.
Name: I got that.
Address: Woo! Another one.
Write a 5 paragraph essay explaining your qualifications and how you would accomplish world peace.
The applications just get me.
So that’s how I happened to find myself in the most stressful month long competition I could have ever imagined.
A few weeks before college began, I received an email from the people at DoSomething.org, a group I had become very familiar with and even applied to a few times for various internship opportunities.
They were requesting applications for students to captain a clothing drive team at their Universities. I ignored the first email because I was busy.
The second time I got the email, I wrote it in my planner as “something I should look into.” I didn’t think anything more.
Then I got the third email, when the deadline was drawing dangerously close and I finally bought the bait. I clicked the link and, as mentioned above, slowly found myself answering questions and essays and applying for the competition.
Then, I forgot about it. It wasn’t until I was sitting my college cafeteria surrounded by my orientation leader friends and awaiting the arrival of the first-year students when I got the email. We were in. We were about to be one of 50 much larger schools competing on the national level for a clothing drive that would become known as the Close The Loop Cup.
Well, this is cool.
I had run a clothing drive two years ago at my same institution for another organization I ran service events for. How hard could it be?
I remember scrutinizing the website. There were prizes: first, second, third. I wrote those off entirely. My tiny school was only 1,100 strong. We would aim for the Spirit Award.
The Spirit Award was based on how well the captain could involve the entire school community. If there’s one thing Westminster College knows, its community.
Thus began the frantic scramble that has been my month of September. Never has a span of 30 days gone by so quickly.
On our first turn in, we had 1,780 items of clothing. I was happy, but aiming for Top 25.
We were ranked first.
Our second turn in was 5,506. I thought that certainly, someone would pass us.
We still maintained our lead.
Our third turn in pushed us just over a milestone with 10,001 items collected.
We are still leading.
But we aren’t leading because of anything I said or did…not because of anything special about myself or the four teammates I’ve been working directly with for the last month.
We are winning because of the community that exists at my college. We may be small in numbers, but we’re big in heart and we have done the impossible. We have fought giants and we have won.
I won’t know the Final Leaderboard until the end of next week. But in my eyes?
We won the day I saw 20 students file into an unused storage room on a dusty Tuesday afternoon.
We won the day I had people play music and count clothing together, dancing and laughing and yelling if someone threw their number count off.
We won the day we hosted a Thrift Shop Fashion Show that attracted over 100 students. We won when we had almost 2 dozen agree to be models and strut their stuff for a cause.
We won the day I had alumni reach out to me asking how they could help.
We won the day the newspapers published our story and community members responded.
We won the day we came together to achieve one goal.
I’ve always been bad at asking for help. Throughout this competition though, I’ve learned that having help isn’t just a suggestion—it’s a requirement.
We absolutely would not be where we are today with the competition were it not for the countless people that selflessly stepped up to help out. Whether that help came in the form of a drive across campus to collect boxes, a well-designed flyer, a flawless choreographed opening number, or a meticulously counted box of clothing, you are the real heroes of this project.
This September taught me more about teamwork, leadership, and personal growth than I could have possibly imagined from what I first viewed as “just a clothing drive.”
Thank you for making it more than what it was. Thank you for helping us to be part of something bigger than we are. Thank you for believing in our school.
There is something incredible that happens when a small group of strong-minded, fiercely loyal individuals works together. I think that something is a thing called positive change.