Many hands: Community support makes new thrift shop tick

April 2010 Posted in Business

Heidi Prince, job developer for Mount Angel Developmental Programs, manages Helping Hands, a thrift store that benefits the organization.  By Linda Whitmore

The image of hands giving a lift to someone reaching for help, or hands clasped in warm greeting, both seem appropriate for the new Helping Hands Thrift Store in Silverton.

The shop at 301 E. Main St., provides a place of employment for disabled adults, a place to display and sell their artwork, and a place for area residents to find bargains.

Heidi Prince, job developer for Mount Angel Developmental Programs, came up with the idea of a thrift shop, proposed it to Carolyn Fox, executive director of the program; and pulled it all together.

“I have lots of experience with sales,” Prince said. “I’ve been buying, selling and recycling my whole life.”

Her retail background includes operation of an antiques mall, flower shop and being a self-employed interior decorator.

She went to work eight months ago for Mount Angel Developmental Programs, which offers several programs to help people with autism, Asbergers Syndrome and other disabilities, and their families.

Prince got the inspiration for a stop where disabled adults could work and the proceeds from the sales would benefit the assistance organization. It took her less than two months to bring it to fruition.

“I’ve developed a few businesses and was sure I could do this with help and support,” she said.

A location had to be found. Merchandise had to be gathered. “Friends and family and the Silverton community were extremely supportive,” Prince said, donating clothing for men, women and children; toys, household articles and decorative items.

But Helping Hands also sells quality furniture on consignment, making it more than a thrift shop. The consignment fee is 25 percent.

“I want prices to be competitive and I felt (the low fee) would encourage people to want to consign,” Prince said. It keeps costs down, making purchases affordable to the buyers.

Another distinguishing feature for the shop is an area devoted to artworks by Mount Angel Developmental Programs’ clientele. Several paintings are on exhibit now and more works will be displayed soon.

While Prince oversees the shop, clients are involved in the operation, including sorting, cleaning and hanging the merchandise.

Helping Hands opened April 2, First Friday, and when interviewed shortly afterward, Prince said the debut was a huge success.

“I’m thankful to everybody for their support and positive feedback. It’s been really great,” she said.

Right now Prince is extremely busy managing the store, but as job development director, “I have a few other ideas that, when I catch my breath, I will pursue.”

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