Started in 1919, Unity Shoppe provides basic necessities to low-income families, children and elderly, while encouraging self-sufficiency and independent living. The organization provides goods through their "shoppe," where the needy come to pick out what they need from a selection of donated food and clothing, rather than being given a handout of what the organization determines they need. They also use the "shoppe" to teach valuable job skills to volunteers and needy clients as they learn office management, computer skills and merchandising. The organization is run by Barbara Tellefson, a former full-time volunteer for 20 years who was hired as Executive Director in 1994.
The Unity Shoppe assists families all year, acting as a central store where regional nonprofit organizations, churches, schools and hospitals can refer families in crisis. Eliminating the duplication of effort, goods, people and services allows for more funding and services to be available for people in need. More than 13,000 people are referred to the Unity Shoppe each year.
The organization is based out of a community house that also serves as the headquarters for two other charities, a retired senior program and a child abuse prevention program. The Unity Shoppe led the drive to purchase the community house.
One of the new programs that the Unity Shoppe offers is free computer skill training for youth and adults. Since June 1997, 140 people have used this program to upgrade their skills for existing jobs, to learn skills for future jobs, to increase school grades, to help the Unity Shoppe through community service and to improve self-esteem.
More than 4,000 people volunteer for the Unity Shoppe each year. Volunteers include senior citizens, youth, community leaders, businesses, service clubs, local celebrities and media representatives. Many others donate food and clothing as well. Two million dollars in merchandise is donated annually by the community.
The services provided by the Unity Shoppe work to prevent homelessness and welfare dependency. People are able to pay their rent and move their lives forward. More than half of those serviced by the organization were able to continue working in low paying jobs, while they worked themselves through crisis situations. Forty percent of those receiving help were single women living on one income.
Web site address: http://www.rain.org/~unityshp/