Duane Boyd could have thrown the four bags of children’s clothes he’s collected over the years into the dump. Instead, the Rock Hill father of three, on the last leg of a weeklong vacation, hauled the bags to a newly opened thrift store with an aim to create jobs for the unemployed and suppress York County’s “jobless class.”
Renting space inside the House of Bread International building on Celanese Road, the Renew Our Community Emporium has taken shape. The tagline: Shop. Donate. Do Good.
Last week, donated clothes filled the racks and volunteers sorted through boxes and bags of items they hope to sell at “bargain” prices. The store, which opened Oct. 7, is another effort by Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community organization to create jobs for the unemployed and downtrodden.
Dale Dove, a Rock Hill adoption attorney who founded the organization, is adamant that handouts to people who ask for money won’t solve the problem of long-term poverty.
The answer, he said: a job. But amid a shaky economy, a job is not an easy find, especially for those who have been unemployed for months.
“We’ve had people that wanted to hire people to give people a chance, and then they would do something wacky on the job, and then they would let them go,” he said. “We’re not dealing all the time with a normal, stable, dependable, know-how-to-do-it population. There are some people we deal with ready to be employed.”
For others, drug addiction and depression hinder their ability to get a job, he said.
“If we don’t want people to be in crisis all the time or dependent on society or charity, then we’ve got to help them get a job,” Dove said.
To do that, Dale said, he’s made connections with organizations that allow him to sell their products in the store. Those companies include a nonprofit group based in Ecuador that helps former prostitutes make a living in jewelry-making, and Land of a Thousands Hill, a coffee brand that pays farmers in Rwanda a fair wage for growing coffee. Profits from coffee sales go back to help restore Rwanda, a West African country devastated by genocide in 1994, and provide care for orphans, families and schools.
People with a special skill or talent, such as basket weaving or baking, will be able to sell their crafts in the store, Dove said.
“We want people to be entrepreneurial,” he said.
He hopes to offer temporary jobs to the unemployed, while enrolling them in programs to bolster their on-the-job training. Solving the issue of unemployment, he said, is in the hands of the community.
“I want our community to create a culture of responsibility,” he said. “I think that government dependence is as much as a problem today as drug addiction. It takes people and wastes them. It demotivates them to work. It is a necessity for some people, but for most people, unfortunately, it is becoming a hindrance rather than a help.”
York County’s unemployment rate for August 2013 was 8.2 percent.
Renew Our Community Emporium will act as a temporary placing agency, linking employees with a proven track record with people who need work done at their homes or businesses.
A consultant with Cincinnati Works – an Ohio-based nonprofit that aims to eliminate poverty by giving the unemployed well-paying jobs while also addressing spiritual and mental needs – has agreed to provide services to York County residents free of charge, Dove said. Clients have to be drug-free and must have stable housing while enrolled in the intensive program that gives them skills to work successful jobs.
“They don’t just get you jobs, but they fix the person,” said Eric Kramer, pastor of Renew Church in Lancaster.
The thrift store is open from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Shoppers spend money that supports the community and ideally will create enough money to enable Renew Our Community to pay for its building and employees without having to depend on government grants.
Renew Our Community Central, on White Street in downtown Rock Hill, is completely funded by donations. So far, Dove said, the store’s budget allows for Renew Our Community Emporium to hire one employee in December and two more in January.
Part of the idea for a store came from Kramer, who heads the Christian Services food pantry and thrift store in Lancaster. After the store opened, Kramer realized that not only did it help pay for the ministry, but it also became a “hub for people to know what you do.”
“It’s a great unifier in the community,” he said, because people go in, shop and donate items that will help less fortunate people.
Many of Dove’s goals are long-term, but organizers hope to get them off the ground by next year, said Lindsey Catha, Renew Our Community Emporium store manager.
Right now, volunteers, such as Catha’s mother, Rhonda Catha Kramer, help run the store.
The store accepts clothing, household furniture and other items people no longer need or use.
Word about Renew Our Community Emporium has spread. Just ask Duane Boyd, whose family learned about the store while attending services at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Fresh off a trip to the county dump where he discarded trash, Boyd opted to save the kids’ clothes, old but gently used, for something better.
“It’s good to have a place to take it,” he said. “I could have easily put it in the dump, but ... it’s towards a good cause.”