$50,000 AHEAD Grant
Second Chance Boutique is the brainchild of the Solutions Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering a range of resources to help combat addiction in Las Vegas, Nevada. The aim of the enterprise is to provide an opportunity for people who are in the early stages of their recovery process to develop employment readiness and job search skills. With help from a $50,000 AHEAD grant that covered initial infrastructure and operating costs, the shop re-sells donated clothes, furniture, electronics, and other goods, allowing it to be self-sufficient while providing 90 days of paid on-the-job work experience and recovery support to program participants.
Denise Delzell manages the Second Chance Boutique and is responsible for creating an encouraging and empowering environment for staff, volunteers, and the customers who regularly stop in to shop after attending 12-step meetings on the Solutions Wellness Campus. "I started out in the hallway with a little desk - no phone, no computer," Denise says. But she figured out how to make it all work. Over the course of the 90-day program, Denise works on helping participants learn or re-learn good work habits, build a resume and structure a cover letter, and develop job search strategies and interview skills. Most importantly, the Second Chance Boutique work experience means the participant will have a job reference to offer potential employers.
Lisa Friedman, 42, is one of the training program's first graduates. "It was going to be really hard for me to get a job with my background," she says. "My boyfriend and I were drinking, and we got angry from drinking and hurt each other. I went to jail for a couple of weeks, and then ended up in a Solutions Recovery House." The Second Chance program helped Lisa develop a new sense of responsibility and regain her self-confidence as she learned new job skills and how to highlight them on her resume. With her boutique experience, she was able to go out and land a full-time job. "I'd like to say the Second Chance program should be longer, but then it wouldn't give a person the drive to go out and find a job on their own," she says.
Tina (not her real name), elegantly dressed in a business-like black and white ensemble, volunteers at the shop when she has time, happy to help other recovery program participants get outfitted for their job search. "When I came here I was just getting back on my feet, and I walked in and talked to Denise about how we all need second chances," Tina says. In need of a makeover herself, Tina felt the boutique was the right place to shop. "I got a chance to build myself back up again, to be employment-worthy, which has a lot to do with what you wear, how you look," she says. "Coming here, shopping, talking to Denise, meeting other people, I was able to literally get my life back."
Denise takes pride in the fact that thrift shop customers always come back when they've got their lives back on track. "Sometimes they come in just to say thanks, but frequently it's to bring in donations that will help someone else coming through the recovery program," Denise says. "Pay it forward: that's what's going on here constantly."
According to David Marlon, founder of Solutions Foundation and President and CEO of Solutions Recovery, Inc., the longer people stay engaged, the more likely it is that they will succeed in their recovery. The Second Chance Boutique is one of many features - including a gym, a salon, and 12-step meetings - that keep clients coming back to the Solutions Wellness Campus. "It makes us sticky," he says.
Because he knows what his calling is in life, Marlon considers himself a very lucky person. "It's an amazing opportunity to be able to help people," he says. "I wake up every day and rush to work." But he notes that it has sometimes been difficult to raise capital for innovative ideas like the Second Chance Boutique. "A lot of people have been hurt by an addict or alcoholic in their lives. And unfortunately, addiction comes with a stigma that these people did it to themselves."
Brian Maddox, Director of Nevada Operations, Clearinghouse CDFIFor Clearinghouse CDFI, however, partnering with the Solutions Foundation to seek start-up funding for the thrift store was an opportunity to make a real difference in a community where they do business. "We quickly decided that one of the best ways for Solutions to achieve what they were looking to do was to apply for the AHEAD grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco," says Brian Maddox, Director of Nevada Operations.
The AHEAD Program provides early-stage funding for targeted economic development projects and housing initiatives that create benefits for low- and moderate-income communities, and is one of several grant programs that Clearinghouse is able to access as a member of FHLBank San Francisco. Second Chance Boutique is the third project to be awarded an AHEAD grant through Clearinghouse. "The program is extremely easy for us to use," says Maddox. "And it's great financing, funding that you wouldn't find anywhere else."