Bookstore volunteers provide unique shopping experiences for students

Lilly Ashworth, Editor-in-Chief

SO MANY CHOICES Volunteer Kathryn Hammitt scans a student’s items during lower lunch on Apr. 4. Volunteers mainly work as cashiers during store hours, and will also focus on organizing and restocking when the store is closed to students. Volunteers interact with students in every aspect of their job, which connects them with the Mater Dei community while their children are in attendance or after they have graduated from the school. Photo courtesy of Lilly Ashworth.

The Mater Dei campus store is more than a bookstore, although they do sell plenty of them; it is also home to a myriad of items for students, such as clothing, assorted snacks and drinks, and even school supplies. Another unique aspect to the store is that it is run almost entirely by parent and alumni volunteers. Most of the adults you see working are there to give back to the MD community in a unique way. 

“I decided to volunteer at the bookstore because it seemed like a fun way to volunteer my time,” Elizabeth Louis said. 

Louis is the parent of junior Kate Louis. While working at the campus store, Louis sees a large number of students throughout the day. 

“I probably interact with [about] 75 students during my volunteer hours,” Louis said. “I love it when my daughter pops in to say hi.”

Students are allowed to purchase merchandise from the student store before and after school as well as during lunch. Although the store is open for the entire school day, the store is unavailable to students during class time and office hours. However, this doesn’t stop students from utilizing the campus store when they do have the opportunity. 

“I usually will see close to 300 students in an average day,” campus store manager Julie Stokes said. “I absolutely love visiting with the students. The interaction with them is a highlight of what I do.” 

As the store manager, Stokes works as one of the only hired positions in the store. She regularly works with vendors to make sure all merchandise is in stock, and comes up with ideas for new items. 

“[I] make sure that all sizes of the merchandise are out on the floor, stock the fridge and snack areas and prepare for lunch time, which is our busiest time of the day,” Stokes said. “Other than that, I’m in the process of getting new merch for August and ReDD Days.” 

Resource and Device Distribution (ReDD) Day(s) are a time for all enrolled students to pick up their iPads, books, and other essentials before the start of the school year. Since most of those items fall under the campus store’s jurisdiction, the beginning of the year is always a busy time for the store. Additionally, it is a time where more volunteers are needed, and is the time period in which Stokes first started at the store herself. 

“I [first] volunteered in July [and] August at ReDD day for the Campus Store,” Stokes said. “Then, the [store manager position] became available, and I applied for it.”

The store volunteers are pivotal to the success of the store, but so are the students. Following a supply-and-demand model, the items that each student buys determines what will be kept in stock. 

“I reach out to several of the students and ask what they would like to see in the store,” Stokes said. “Then I work at finding the merchandise and getting it in the store. If there is something that the students would like to have, I love to know.” 

Some items are incredibly popular amongst students, so much so that the store will run out of stock shortly after release. Recently, the store collaborated with Lululemon to create a line of leggings and shirts with the MD logo, a popular item amongst students and parents alike as well as a few others.

“This year, the most popular item has been the PJ pants,” Stokes said. “The first delivery sold out in under 24 hours and the second order sold out in just under 36 hours.” 

Clothing isn’t the only popular item in the store, however. Even with the large variety in food and beverages, some go very quickly. 

“The most popular item we sell seems to change day by day, but we definitely sell a lot of chips, Goldfish and Cheez-its, and lots of drinks,” Louis said. “Personally, I love the sweatshirts and the hats.”

There are some perks to being a campus store volunteer, such as specialty discounts on items, especially if a volunteer commits to a longtime position. Ultimately, the experience of working with the MD community is a perk in and of itself. 

“My favorite part of the job is the [people] I get to work with and the interactions with students,” Louis said. 

Volunteers and students work together to make the campus store run the way it does, which has been successful for many years at MD. The store provides students with more options at lunch, easy access to basic supplies, and the chance to show their school spirit with MD embedded in the clothing. 

“I must make sure that I have what the students want, otherwise the students wouldn’t come in and the store suffers,” Stokes said. “The store is here on campus for them, and I want to make sure that [they] have everything they want and then some.”

CHECKING OUT Volunteer Lisa Carlos leads the check-out process in the campus store, helping a student purchase snacks for the day. Students are able to purchase goods with both cash and credit cards, although there is a five dollar minimum if using a card or Apple Pay. In order to reach this minimum, some students buy more snacks than they need to share with friends or save for later. (Lilly Ashworth)