Approximately 10 years ago Dave Kricak wondered where his special needs daughter might find employment after she graduated from her transition program. What he discovered was that there weren’t a lot of options. So, he started The GEAR Foundation, whose mission is to not only provide jobs but empower young adults with special needs through training and coaching. GEAR is an acronym for Gainful Employment And Respect. When Dave and his wife opened Our Thrift Store in 2004, they created a place where those with special needs work side by side with other adults and the public in a respectful, supportive environment.
Stuff = Jobs
Stuff = Jobs is the slogan here. It’s really a beautiful process – people donate items to the store, the store sells the items back to the community, and 100% of the profits are used to keep or create new jobs. When I first started shopping at Our Thrift Store 5 years ago, it was one small part of the building. The store started doing so well that they were able to expand not only the thrift store but create an Ebay business as well. This expansion provided yet another set of jobs, particularly suited for those with more limiting physical disabilities.
Our Thrift Store is a perfect example of a community based business. Although the store is dependent on the community to give (as customers and/or donators of items), the store manages to give back too. Much of the charm of the store is in the cleanliness and friendliness of the staff and it is always stocked with quality items. It’s also one of the only places where adults with special needs and the community can interact together which helps raise awareness and even plant seeds for future possibilities.
A big reason that the store was chosen so early on in our Local Love series is because of their social media marketing. They are doing a fantastic job utilizing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Social Media Manager Brandon Leclere has spent the past couple of years developing and perfecting the store’s overall social media plan. Updates are given throughout the day, and responses are sent as soon as possible to keep continued engagement with clients.
And it is working.
Brandon estimates that in the past year alone, the number of Facebook Likes has almost doubled. They have seen an increase in traffic and sales due to the increased online presence. Much of the success is due to their fans sharing what they love with friends. I personally received two forwards last week from Instagram posts of items friends thought I would be interested in checking out at the store….which I did.
So, tell me – have you been there recently? Or seen any good posts that made you curious? If you only had $20 in your pocket, what would you be hunting for? Drop your answer to any or all of the above to firstname.lastname@example.org