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Thrift shop providing opportunities to an underserved population

With Pinkie's Thrift, Prescott Group's Shana Hendsbee hopes to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities achieve success in Halifax
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Brandi, one of the participants at Pinkie's Thrift

When Shana Hendsbee first organized an online auction for the Prescott Group in 2016, she always hoped the social enterprise would one day lead to an actual thrift shop.

She has finally reached that day with Pinkie’s Thrift — a new second-hand retail store that sells everything from gently-used clothing to low-priced home goods, jewellery and more.

However Pinkie’s Thrift also boasts a special set of staff members.

“It’s been a very big passion of mine for having people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have experiences that they might not otherwise have,” says the Pinkie's Thrift supervisor. “This just takes it another step further in that they get to put things out in the community, they get to wait on customers, they get to learn cash skills (and) they’re super happy to see people come in and talk to them.”

Launched in April on Prescott Street in Halifax’s North End, Pinkie’s Thrift parallels the same goals of its parent organization, the Prescott Group — to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) build friendship, community and achieve success in Halifax.

“Inclusive employment is kind of a little bit of a buzz term right now,” notes Martha Lowe, Prescott Group’s development and community engagement manager. “But sometimes people with intellectual developmental disabilities aren’t necessarily being hired as inclusively as someone with another set of disabilities.”

Lowe says Pinkie’s Thrift helps to break the stigma and showcases all of the skills that people with IDD can learn if the organization simply does a little work to meet an individual’s needs.

She adds it is simply ensuring that people have the right tools to do a job instead of matching a person’s skills to the requirements of a position.

“We (even) have people who don’t communicate in the traditional way so we are looking at different things like flash cards for them to be able to pick what they want to say to the customer,” adds Hendsbee. “We work with them where they are at and try to build a little bit on top of each other to help them reach their goals and feel good about themselves.”

Nearby is also the recently opened North End Baking Co., another Prescott Group partnership and café. Not only does the gluten-free coffee house staff people with IDD and provide participants with training in food preparation and other kitchen duties, it also acts as a selling showcase for other Prescott-supported artwork and business ventures like B’s Tees & More.

“They were so excited to have a store open, they were so excited to see people come in and be able to say hi and help people,” says Hendsbee about her participants at Pinkie’s Thrift. “We get to see (product) come in, we get to do all the processes and then we see it go out so they know that we are making money, they know that we’re contributing to a greater thing.”

In addition to giving those with IDD a chance to thrive in the community and gain invaluable skills, Pinkie’s Thrift is also a sustainable business that aims to help reduce land-fill waste by repurposing goods through donation.

In fact, even if products don’t sell, Pinkie’s Thrift ensures they recycle and reuse what they can. They partner with a buyer who purchases leftover goods and often donate remaining items to Shelter Nova Scotia, the Brunswick Street Mission, and even certain breakable goods to the Rage Room.

“If it’s got a chip in it or a crack in it, so it’s not quality to sell to a reseller or sell in the store, someone can smash it,” says Hendsbee of items that wind up at the Isleville Street garage where items get a second use by being destroyed. “I feel like at least that’s something else (and) it gets another use.”

People looking to donate gently-used goods are encouraged to bring items in to Pinkie’s Thrift during opening hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday or email Hendsbee at shanahendsbee@prescottgroup.ca for more information.

After nearly six years of waiting for her prized thrift shop, Hendsbee is certainly reaping the rewards of her patience. However, she insists the greatest honour has just been watching the transformation of Pinkie’s participants.

“It is mind-blowing to see the excitement and the joy on their faces when they realize that they can use a computer, they can use Facebook, they can give money back, they can ring people in,” says Hendsbee. “It’s amazing. I love seeing them just excel and grow and be confident in what they can do.”

For more information on Pinkie’s Thrift, visit the Prescott Group website.

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