After Hurricane Irma, Darby Campbell of Fort Meyers, Florida, realized there were many students who had lost everything and many others who constantly go without. The 17-year-old junior decided to do something to help her classmates in need. Darby created the G.I.F.T.S/Interact Club, which started the Greenwave Boutique.
With the help of a school administrator, Darby found an empty closet space at her school suitable for the boutique and had shelving donated. The boutique collects donations such as clothing, shoes, homecoming dresses, toiletries, towels, blow dryers, bedding, and backpacks, and allows Fort Myers students and their families to take what they need free of charge.
G.I.F.T.S. also collects monetary donations and holds fundraisers to help students pay their rent or buy items not available at the boutique. The Greenwave Boutique model has spread to other throughout the city, and G.IFTS helps provide donations for those closets.
Darby recently started an internship with Christy’s Cause, a nonprofit that works to eradicate child sex trafficking through education, awareness, restoration projects and justice initiatives, where she will be helping the nonprofit run their social media and plan events. Darby is working hard to make her community and the world a better place. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
When I first began my community service project, it was just inspired by an idea that I had and a will to make it happen. But after beginning, I realized the vast need in Fort Myers and especially Fort Myers High School (FMHS). Then, once I heard stories of the families and students that the Greenwave Boutique was helping it inspired me to take it one step further, and then further, and then even further. It was strange because it was almost addictive. Once I got my foot in the door and began to make more connections, I wanted to help as many people as possible. Then after I got involved with Christy’s Cause and became more educated on sex trafficking, I realized that the issue of sex trafficking was nowhere near the same as what the Greenwave Boutique was helping. My sister, my friends, and even I could fall victim to this problem. This served as further inspiration to work towards solving the issues that plague my community.
Describe your volunteer role.
I am the founder and president of G.I.F.T.S/Interact club which is the club that created the Greenwave Boutique and works on other community projects within Fort Myers and FMHS. I also am an intern at Christy’s Cause so I am very involved in the community projects that they are doing to eradicate sex trafficking.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work has definitely been the reaction from the community. After creating a club like this and seeing that there are so many people that want to help support my cause, it is extremely empowering. It gives me a hope in humanity and inspiration to become a better person after observing the selfless actions of so many. Also, another rewarding aspect of my work is the stories I hear about the families and students that the club is helping. I have been told stories of mothers who come in the closet and burst out in tears. To be able to be someone’s only source of help and support is very rewarding yet also a reminder to continue working hard.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Empathy is the most important thing I have learned through volunteering. I have learned to always be grateful no matter what you are going through, because someone is always going through worse. I have also learned patience and tolerance. The kid who sits next to me in class that always falls asleep during the lesson isn’t just lazy, he could be homeless or have to work the night shift at a job. Working as a volunteer has made me realize these things.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I am very excited about my internship with Christy’s Cause since it will give the club many new opportunities for involvement. I am also extremely excited about our partnership with Our Mother’s Home (a home for teen moms in foster care and their babies)since we will be learning from the girls as much as we are helping them. Also, most of my work with the Greenwave Boutique doesn’t involve seeing first-hand how I am helping someone. With Our Mother’s Home I am able to meet and connect with the girls I am helping.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it is important for others to give back since without giving back it is extremely hard to realize what is going on within one’s own community. Also, through helping others one can learn empathy, leadership skills, tolerance, etc. If you never give back, you will never realize how rewarding that feeling is and this could hinder future opportunities that would benefit all.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want people to learn that they are never too young to get involved or become passionate about something. I have a job, internship, and I am in the IB (International Baccalaureate) Program at FMHS, but I still make time for these community service projects since they are important to me. I want people to learn that they are never too busy either. I want others to learn that it is never too late or too early to start something and that with hard work and commitment you can take a simple project, such as a closet, and turn it into something that is helping hundreds throughout Lee County.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Darby? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.