by Cori Hilsgen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask Ann Kennedy and her co-workers such as Lisa Anderson about re-using and thrifting, and you will see excitement on their faces and hear it in their voices.
Kennedy is the sales and marketing manager at WACOSA, and Anderson is a team leader. Both are excited about a new business opportunity, “Thriftworks,” which is a training program to help those without county funding find gainful employment.
Thriftworks is a new thrift store located in the old Vilo Lanes building in Waite Park. The building was recently renovated and includes WACOSA administrative offices, the Thriftworks retail space and a back room for sorting and accepting donations. All proceeds from Thriftsworks will benefit WACOSA.
WACOSA is a business that employs people from the St. Joseph and Sartell areas that has been serving people with disabilities for more than 50 years. It is a nonprofit business whose mission is to provide people with disabilities the chance to work and live in their community.
WACOSA has locations in Waite Park and Sauk Centre and a senior program that is housed at Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud. In 2012, WACOSA served more than 575 adults with disabilities in those three locations.
At WACOSA, emphasis is placed on capabilities and strengths and a “can-do” attitude in which they focus on what employees can do instead of what they cannot do.
According to Kennedy, people with disabilities “are such a wonderful, untapped resource. They show up on time and they’re there every day. They are fiercely dedicated.”
Thriftworks was part of a plan to work with people with disabilities who have no county funding available and are not getting services in the community.
“The goal is to provide jobs to existing consumers who we currently serve, but to also bring in people with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is one form of autism,” Kennedy said.
Asperger’s Syndrome is often called the invisible disability since there usually are no visual cues.
“In many cases, there is no county funding to help these people find meaningful employment,” Kennedy said.
The goal of Thriftworks is to set up a training opportunity to help adults gain some “soft” skills.
Soft skills WACOSA employees would be gaining would include skills such as making eye contact, being comfortable dealing with different situations that arise when working with customers, filling out applications, going through the interview process and learning real-life skills, such as working in a retail environment.
Kennedy said WACOSA chose to create a retail business because St. Cloud has a lot of retail options. She said it made sense to work with retail because there are a lot of jobs in the St. Cloud area, and it would be an easy transition from their training program into an actual employment situation.
“It’s a way for them to bring in some income, pay them a livable wage while they’re working here, and then get them back out in the community,” Kennedy said. “We thought this would be a unique way to help people in our community.”
A grand opening is planned for May 4. They will be drawing for prizes. People can enter the drawing by stopping at the store and again if they donate items.
Thriftworks is seeking donations now and has a drive-through drop-off currently open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Store hours after May 4 will be from 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
Items accepted at Thriftworks include clothing, books, movies, games, toys, small household appliances, housewares, jewelry, linen and bedding, tools and furniture that has been reviewed and approved.
Items not accepted include hazardous waste or items such as computers, VCRs, TVs, monitors, stereos, turntables, speakers, phones or answering machines that contain hazardous waste. Microwave ovens, mattresses or box springs, infant equipment such as cribs, highchairs, pack-n-plays, car seats, sleeper sofas, food, flammable products, weapons, explosives, construction materials, carpeting and any other non-resalable items also are not accepted.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.