Yes She Can Volunteer Melanie P. is enrolled in culinary school working towards an associate’s degree. Her typical day is attending class, studying and completing class assignments, and engaging in her life-long hobby: American Girl Dolls.
Given her passion, Melanie has been a frequent volunteer at the Girl AGain boutique in White Plains, NY, lending her expertise to the nonprofit organization that operates the resale shop. On weekends she helps prepare the used dolls and all their accessories so that they can be sold to and loved by a new generation of girls.
Looking through and categorizing items from bags and boxes of donations is like being on a treasure hunt with Melanie. The latest donation to come in was from California: EIGHT large moving boxes of American Girl dolls, clothes and accessories. A particularly wobbly legged doll comes out of the box – we’ll get to that in a bit.
First Melanie is going to be a hairdresser. Steaming makes a doll’s hair more manageable and a lot less frizzy. After Melanie treats and tames the hair, she returns it to the doll’s original style, two long braids, and then trims off frizzy ends. Rarely, only a replacement wig will do. When this occurs a wig can be ordered from a reliable source that Melanie knows of — a 10 – 11-inch size does the trick she says confidently.
Eight moving boxes – the stash includes quite a number of AG dolls as well as some lovely furniture. Some dolls have legs that need to be tightened so the doll can stand on her own, while other dolls just need a good wash.
One doll has all of the stuffing taken out in preparation for Melanie to tighten up its inner structure – the work table looks like mountain of fluff. One of the dolls with a sprinkle of freckles and beautiful shiny hair is riding a cloud of fluffy white. But not to worry – Melanie will bring her back together – hair groomed, inner workings snugged up, re-stuffed – head replaced (!) and back in her outfit and she’s ready for sale.
Melanie is actually tightening the inner elastics to combat those loose limbs. She then repacks the stuffing with the handle of a long wooden spoon. She tests the leg movement for tightness – not entirely satisfied she goes about packing more and more stuffing – is that mountain of fluff going to be stuffed back inside that doll – well yes it is.
There’s lots of q&a at the work table as Melanie and her mom unpack and sort the donations – it seems that any item her mom picks up and asks about Melanie pinpoints the origin almost immediately – but of course her personal collection includes 52 dolls (did Girl of The Year Gabrielle make 53?). Working through the donated items, she can identify in an instant, a single balloon that accompanies a certain doll when she came home from hospital.
Seemingly she knows the origin of any item picked out of a contribution – it is as if she has American Girl radar. What an asset she is to the Girl Again boutique. Her mother asks her about a small accessory that’s been donated “No…” she answers without pausing “that’s from Build a Bear not American Girl.” “My encyclopedia” her Mom says, beaming.
With one doll refurbished, Melanie picks out another donated doll from the bin of lovelies waiting expectantly to be brought to life again. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of American Girl dolls and how to refurbish them. She cleans the doll off with plain water and sponge – “some people don’t like baking soda because it lends a waxy crayon smell to the doll’s skin”, Melanie says.
Perhaps the doll eyes won’t open and close freely? WD 40 and computer keyboard spray will fix it right up as reported by Melanie – this observer senses there isn’t anything she can’t fix, given time.
While cleaning dolls, we were treated to a firsthand account of American Girl NYC store’s launch of two new dolls – Tenney and Logan – Melanie & Mom were waiting patiently on line at the New York City store on launch day and struck up a conversation with another mom and daughter. These avid collectors were thrilled to know that Melanie volunteered at Girl Again. They exchanged contact information and Melanie and Mom said they would keep an eye out for a couple of hard-to-find retired items that their new acquaintance wanted to add to her collection.
So how does Melanie manage her own collection of 52 dolls? She uses a series of wall mounted coat racks – each of the dolls rests comfortably with a coat rack peg under each arm. The racks are in a continuous line across and around four sides of her bedroom. Melanie’s latest project is a hand constructed doll house with rooms large enough for up to four dolls.
Volunteers are essential
Marjorie Madfis, President of Yes She Can which created and operates Girl AGain boutique, says she relies on Melanie not just for her skills at fixing dolls but also as a social role model for the young women in the Yes She Can training program. “Volunteers like Melanie are essential to the program.”
If you wish to volunteer complete this form and send to Marjorie@YesSheCanInc.org