Reflecting on my leadership experience at Linens N Love

By: Shweta Shah, Chapter President of Valencia Linens N Love

I have been with Linens N Love for about two years. My first delivery was the spring of my freshman year. When I saw the large group of volunteers and the incredible amount of linens donations and boxes, I was stunned. And then I realized I was lost. I didn't know why I was there except for the fact that Vivian, the co-founder of Linens N Love and my best friend, invited me. It didn't take long for me to begin filling linens in boxes, taping the boxes up, and lifting them to the enormous stack of cardboard boxes. While I was there, I realized two things: the importance of community effort and the influence a simple object can have on a person's life. 

Before my junior year of high school, Vivian approached me again, asking if I would like to be the Chapter President at Valencia. I took on this responsibility with a smile and the knowledge that I could grow immensely as a leader from this experience. I wanted to bring more people onto the journey that May and Vivian started in 2013, just as they invited me to join them. I began to coordinate deliveries with Vivian and Samanta How (Chapter President at Canyon High School) to further our impact on the community around us. 

Before one such anticipated delivery, the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down all of our operations to make our community a better place for everyone. For a few months, Linens N Love relied on our virtual volunteering program that the organization's founders started in May 2020. With our virtual volunteering program, volunteers could advocate for and promote issues they cared about and enact their initiatives. But I wanted to continue our mission to donate linens to comfort those that need them most.

It was during this time that Vivian, Celeste Esqueda (Chapter President at Yorba Linda High school), and I were fortunate to attend the virtual Our Planet, Our Purpose: Changemaker Summit sponsored by Ashoka and General Motors. During a roundtable discussion with experts in the sustainability sectors, I received the idea I needed: contactless delivery. 

Usually, volunteers would place linens in boxes at the site of the shelter. We now box the linens before we reach the shelter to drop the boxes off in front of the facility. The recipients can then pick them up. Contactless delivery will ensure that everyone is safe and that people who need supplies will receive them. Already we have executed several successful deliveries; we plan to deliver more in the future. 

I remember driving up to Vivian's house the afternoon before the WTLC delivery in October and packing twenty or so boxes of linens into my mom's car. When my father and I drove up to the WTLC location the next day and unloaded the linens, I realized again the power of simple actions, especially in a time like this. Any kind gesture can go a long way for a person in need of kindness and positivity. I hope to continue to be a part of the Linens N Love family and support its mission for the rest of my life.

An award-winning, student-led 501(c)3 nonprofit organization repurposing linens to charities since 2014.