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Take Two thrift store gives things and people a second chance

Michelle McDonald (left) and Mark O’Shea ring in a customer’s purchase at Take Two Gently Used Clothing and More, a second-hand clothing store started by Empower, the Disability Resource Centre.
Michelle McDonald (left) and Mark O’Shea ring in a customer’s purchase at Take Two Gently Used Clothing and More, a second-hand clothing store started by Empower, the Disability Resource Centre.

Even though she lives with a mild form of cerebral palsy, Michelle McDonald wants to work. She wants to contribute to society, make a few bucks, and have coworkers she can call friends.

Unfortunately for her and many other people who live with one or more disabilities, that hasn’t always been easy.

“It’s really tough to get someone who understands that and is sympathetic to that and doesn’t have an issue with providing something as simple as a chair,” says the 24-year-old from the Goulds, who requires an occasional respite from standing on her feet. “It makes it harder in the job market if they’re not willing to do it.”

Thanks to Empower, the Disability Resource Centre, a not-for-profit organization that provides programs and services aimed at promoting and facilitating inclusion for persons with disabilities, McDonald has found that place in Take Two Gently-Used Clothing and More on Ropewalk Lane.

“I was unemployed for quite a while, so to have a job with steady income and a few simple accommodations and a bit of compassion towards it is great,” says McDonald, the store’s assistant manager.

Kimberly Yetman Dawson, Empower’s executive director, says research has shown that businesses owners are reticent to hire people with disabilities largely because they’re unsure how to interact with them and are worried about doing or saying the wrong thing.

“If you have an option to choose someone that has a disability or doesn’t have a disability, an employer will often choose someone that doesn’t,” she says. “So we wanted to give people that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity an employment opportunity.”

Empower social enterprise manager Robin Bartlett leads the team at Take Two on Ropewalk Lane. The store employs individuals living with one or more disabilities.

The decision to take the thrift store route was based on research conducted by Empower’s social enterprise manager, Robin Bartlett, who also acts as the store’s manager.

In addition to a strong belief that the region could support another shop peddling second-hand goods, it doesn’t come with the overhead of other ventures, thereby allowing more of the profit to be funnelled back to paying staff salaries and to Empower.

“For a not-for-profit that doesn’t have a whole lot of money to put into it, having a thrift store relying on donations, you’re not paying for inventory like you would in some other business,” she says.

Initially, there was a modicum of concern that product would be hard to come by, but those fears were quickly assuaged once the doors opened in early May and donations began poring in.

“People do want to give and they do want to support an initiative that is local, that’s a charity where the money stays local, that we employ people that have disabilities and where they also come and have a good experience,” says Yetman Dawson.

Thus far, business has been steady, with many repeat customers. One such regular patron is Joan Howlett of Mount Pearl, who shops at Take Two in memory of her daughter Sherry Howlett, who lived with a disability until her death nearly six years ago.

“When I do decide to part with her stuff, this store will be getting it,” Howlett said.

Bartlett acknowledges there are a number of thrift stores in the metro region, but Take Two prides itself on being different.

“It was a vision to be a first-class second-hand store and as you can see when you look around, I’ve done my best to teach my staff about keeping high standards, cleanliness, maintenance, wide accessible aisles and also on doing displays, merchandising and making things look attractive and pleasing,” she says.

In addition to McDonald, the store employs four other core staff, including 32-year-old Mark O’Shea, who lives with mental illness.

Like McDonald, he found previous employers to be lacking in understanding and compassion. When he went to the human resources department at one job, they suggested he check himself into the Waterford Hospital, he said.

His experience at Take Two has been the complete opposite, O’Shea said. In fact, a recent bout of depression forced him to miss a few days of work, and Yetman Dawson reached out while he was out.

“She actually called me and said, ‘I’m not calling as your boss now, I just want to call as a friend,’” he recounts. “She was very understanding and I really appreciated that, actually. It’s been a while since I had a boss that really cared in that manner.”

Take Two is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit iy online at taketwonl.ca or find it on Facebook.

 

kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: kennoliver79

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