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Store of Hope: Purchase with a Purpose

Oct 29, 2014 03:19PM ● By Monique Williams and Aloysius Anderson, DJJ

When you ask Rebecca Morrison about the juveniles that take part in her upholstery design class at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), she often doesn’t talk about them without first commenting on the impact they have on the public. “One lady who came to visit to see what we do was in shock,” says Morrison. “She was in tears and said: ‘People have no clue. Oh my God. People think [the juveniles] are just locked up and the key is thrown away. This is phenomenal.’” Morrison believes it’s phenomenal because the Upholstery Design Center, which is one component of DJJ’s job-readiness program for its youth, is not only a way for students to rebuild furniture and other items but also their lives. “The kids would never be doing upholstery on the outside,” says Morrison. “If they never work in upholstery again, the skills they have learned will help them solve problems creatively and not resort to violence.”

These small moments set the stage for a larger and more far-reaching impact in the community as a whole. The moments set the stage for shoppers in the Midlands to purchase with a purpose at DJJ’s Store of Hope. The program’s philosophy is rooted in the name itself, driven by those concerned about at-risk youth and committed to Helping (H) Others (O) Prepare (P) for Employment (E). The Store of Hope is part of an extensive training program designed to teach job and trade skills to youth. Donated items normally considered to have no value are restored with amazing results through the utilization and implementation of the wide range of skills and capabilities developed within the training program. The underlying vision is to impact and transform the lives by rehabilitating youth through cultivating personal and professional development through the use of effective training and transfer of skills. Participating juveniles within the program uniquely create well-crafted, high- demand items that represent a variety of skill-trade areas, such as masonry, carpentry, welding, framing and much more. In fact, word is quickly spreading about one of the best-kept secrets in town for buying chairs, sofas and ottomans upholstered with high-quality fabrics, and sold to the community at less than a fraction of retail cost. While in the store, many individuals call friends and family to tell them about the many fabulous items available for purchase, such as hand-built Adirondack chairs; custom-painted metal Palmetto trees in one’s favorite sports team’s colors; hand-carved pen sets; and much more.  But, it’s the story behind the store that really delights customers and inspires them to call, text or email friends, and even post pictures of purchased treasures on social media. Proceeds are not for profit, however. Proceeds from sales are used to replenish supplies and materials for products, so the students can continue production. This cycle also aids in paying victim restitution, giving new meaning to retail therapy for both the offender and those whom they have offended. “The youth work in different groups and develop problem-solving skills that help them make better decisions,” says Morrison.

The Store of Hope opened July 11, 2012, and since then, has sold more than $30,000 in merchandise. While DJJ teens learn about specific trades, they develop personal qualities that will impact every aspect of their lives when they leave DJJ custody. “It fosters teamwork; it’s an apprentice program within an apprentice program,” says Morrison. Most of the programs involve decision-making, working in pairs or small groups, and attention to detail. Class instructors see self-confidence, trust, determination and pride growing in these young individuals that often have had no exposure to a work environment or a life situation where they could see a direct result of efforts. During this holiday season, shoppers will not find a better value or a better way to make a “purchase with a purpose” than by giving a gift from the DJJ Store of Hope.

The DJJ Store of Hope is located at 3208 Broad River Rd., Columbia. Store hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on the third Saturday of the month from 10a.m. to 2:00 p.m. For more information, call 803-896-6286. Like and share the store on Facebook: DJJ Store of Hope.

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