Thrift store relies on the help of disabled residents

August 20, 2008 at 5:21 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Two Arc of St. Charles volunteers help load up the racks of Cajun Village, a thrift store that will be run with help from disabled residents.
courtesy photo
Two Arc of St. Charles volunteers help load up the racks of Cajun Village, a thrift store that will be run with help from disabled residents.
With the help of several disabled citizens, a new business venture has opened its doors in St. Charles Parish.
The thrift store, Cajun Village, started out as a simple vision that the executive director and a few earnest volunteers have made into a reality.

“The Arc of St. Charles has opened the doors of the thrift store and I thank God for all He's allowed us to accomplish,” Victoria Bryant, executive director of the Arc, said. “We've got lots to offer to the community, and what's more important is that participants from the Arc will be working and helping to run the store.”

That may not seem unusual to some people, but it's quite a victory for the clients the Arc serves.

“People with disabilities want the same things as everybody else,” Bryant said.  “They want housing, employment, socialization, transportation and community interactions.”

Bryant says when people begin to realize how important disabled citizens are in the community, then the stereotypical response of sympathy will gradually diminish in society.

Several local volunteers have also helped stock the store with merchandise.
“God sent us several ‘doves,’ flying through the store placing things in their designated area,” she said. “Each person played an intricate role.”

One of those diligent workers, Hattie Sue St. Claire, came into Bryant's office one day and asked if she could start organizing the store.

“I said ‘well, sure,’” Bryant said.
The store has already received tons of donations of items such as books, clothes, shoes and furniture. And they are still taking more.

“We are accepting clothing, shoes, household items, bedding, belts, women’s accessories, men’s apparel, children’s books, toys, etc.,” Bryant said. “We will also sell beads for parades and arts and crafts made by the participants.”
Byrant says the Arc of St. Charles is continuously in pursuit of opportunities that will perhaps connect the individuals her program supports with the community in which they live.

“The Cajun Village thrift store idea derived from other Arc chapters who realized that the trend of work activity centers were fading and are now looked upon as segregated entities that separate persons with disabilities from mainstream society,” she said. “Unlike most of the other Arcs, our re-sale store will be located on the Arc's site rather than in the business community.”

Bryant says Cajun Village will be an extension of the Arc's vocational program.
“This venture will not only give the individuals we support a chance to learn how to run a store, but it will help promote community involvement,” she said. “Although it saddens me to admit this, after three decades of serving residents in this community we continue to face the challenge of educating many about our purpose and our impact in this community.”

Bryant says many people didn't believe that it was possible to open such a store in the parish.
“People are now calling to find out when the store is opening,” she said.  “But you've got to have faith because faith is the substance of things hoped for, but the evidence of things not seen.”

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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