STEP Thrift store may look like your average shop with cool finds ranging from home décor to clothing, but it’s a bit more special than the rest.
STEP, which stands for Services To Enhance Potential, is a nonprofit in Wayne county that works with individuals with physical and mental disabilities, as well as severe mental illness. The thrift store is just one aspect of their program. It helps people like Lauren Torres, get the training they need to get and maintain a job.
One of the steps in her individualized program was to work at one of their thrift stores. There, she was trained by staff members like Leah Paige Cooley, the Regional Retail Sales Manager, in an understanding environment.
“It gives them a safe workspace, where they can make mistakes, learn transferrable skills that they can take out into the community,” explains Cooley.
This includes both hard and soft skills, everything from how to work as a team, follow directions, and show up on time, to how to tag clothing and run a cash register. Each individual is accommodated to help them work through their particular struggles.
“Everyone was really nice, and it was like at a slower pace I would say,” says Torres. “I was able to catch on, and if I wasn’t able to catch on, they would explain it in a different way to help.”
Torres was very anxious and shy when it came to talking to customers. Due to her previous experience, running the register and counting money was a big fear. She much preferred to work in the back, organizing new inventory that came in. That was where they started her off.
“If you have someone who has a lot of high anxiety around people, being in a store might be extremely stressful,” explains Cooley. “So as a staff member, part of my job is to transition you into what you are uncomfortable with, and to get you to become comfortable with it.”
Over time, Torres moved her way up to the register, and ended up doing so well they hired her on full-time.
“That actually helped me with my anxiousness,” says Torres. “It gave me the ability to talk to people and become more comfortable.”
The thrift store is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all they do. They also have programs to teach people how to grocery shop and cook, as well as art programs to help people express themselves. The overall goal of STEP is to help people achieve their goals and independence and to better prepare them to be out in the community.
If you would like to help them on their mission, the best way to do that is to donate clothing and furniture to their thrift stores. They accept a wide assortment of items and request a call if you plan to donate larger items. You can also help them out by shopping. Being kind, courteous and encouraging to their workers can help build their confidence and aid them in building their skills.
Here are the three STEP Thrift Store locations:
23830 Ford Rd. Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
35004 W Michigan Ave, Wayne, MI 48184
13705 Eureka Rd Southgate, MI 48195