Durham Rescue Mission's new thrift store is a place to shop - and to work

Rescue mission opens store in Durham

hpaytes@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2013 

— Two years ago, John Rush, 55, was estranged from his family and stuck in what he calls a “seven-year storm” of his own making. Bobby Taylor, also 55, said he “had no hope and didn’t know where to turn.”

Then the two men found the Durham Rescue Mission. And today, each is settled, sober and employed by the place that helped them get clean.

Taylor and Rush work for the nonprofit’s new thrift store, which opened Tuesday at 3900 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd. in Durham.

Rush transports donated furniture to the nonprofit’s three thrift stores, and Taylor is a store supervisor.

Ernie Mills, Durham Rescue Mission co-founder and CEO, said the nonprofit tries to employ participants in its programs whenever possible.

Of the 34 people the new store plans to employ, store manager Rich Carr estimates that 75 percent came from Durham Rescue Mission’s Victory Program, a one-year initiative that teaches participants money management and job-training skills.

At the mission, Rush and Taylor are not anomalies but exemplars of success in a nonprofit that continues to expand.

The two add weight to Mills’ words that “everybody has potential.”

“If they don’t have the skills already, we look and see if there is anyone that has the aptitude, and we teach them,” Mills said. “We try to not just meet the physical needs of a person that night but to help them become self-sufficient.”

The Durham Rescue Mission opened its first thrift store in Raleigh’s Brier Creek in the early 2000s. A second location opened on N.C. 55 in Durham in 2009.

Mills said he decided to open another thrift store to generate income for the nonprofit and to create jobs in the community. The Durham Rescue Mission served 43 percent more people last year than the year before.

Beyond helping participants, Carr said, Durham Rescue Mission thrift stores give new life to recycled goods and allow shoppers to purchase items at a lower cost than traditional retail stores.

“A lot of people can’t afford Sam’s Club, Target,” he said. “We take goods that are destined for the landfill. … Then we use them to bless and help our community for a tenth of the price.”

Lined up to get in

When the store held a test run in December, more than 30 people were waiting outside when it opened, and about 660 shoppers came that day.

Shoppers on Tuesday said they came to the store for a variety of reasons.

James Duggan was seeking the perfect pieces to complete a raccoon costume she’s crafting for a party, and Andrew Perry Jr. was drawn in by the shop’s newness.

Shopper Paula Simon came in search of a bargain. She praised the store’s separation of clothes by size and low prices.

“Here, prices are low,” she said. “I came in looking for a pair of pants and shoes, and I found a comforter – $14. Thrifting is the thing of the future.”

Paytes: 919-836-4918

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