LANSDOWNE — The Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization thrift store at 19 S. Lansdowne Ave. has literally risen from its ashes to reopen and rename itself The Thrift Shop on the Avenue.
Owned by the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization in Swarthmore, and staffed by the Delaware County Middle Unit New Options program in Morton, the non-profit Thrift Shop on the avenue offers customers a range of household items , clothing, shoes, odds and ends, books, electronics, small occasional furniture, jewelry, small appliances, and more, all at unbeatable prices, for over 50 years. The Thrift Shop is not only a community asset, providing local residents with a convenient and inexpensive shopping option, but it is also a vocational training site for Delaware County students graduating from high school and entering the workforce in their community.
The Thrift Shop is operated by DCIU Options/Transition Services, a person-centered program providing local students with opportunities in the community to develop the skills, habits and attitudes necessary for employment, travel and life skills. everyday life.
Proceeds from the thrift store benefit the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization, formerly ARC of Delaware County, a nonprofit that has been advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1956.
Historically, the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization has played a vital leadership role in ensuring civil rights and community inclusion for all people with intellectual and related disabilities, including the right to education, accommodation in the workplace and community life. Today, the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization is the leading advocacy organization for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
The thrift store, which has always been beneficial to the lives of people with developmental disabilities, opened in the early 1970s across from its current location on another section of Lansdowne Avenue. The store was a new venture for what was then the Delaware County Association for Retarded Citizens. The organization eventually became known as DelArc, then The Arc of Delaware County, eventually morphing into the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization, which it remains today.
When the store first opened, it was staffed and run by mothers of RCAF members. Each year, the mothers held a large fundraising event for a fashion show that supported the yearly operations of the thrift store.
In the early 1990s, the Thrift Store moved to its current location at 19 S. Lansdowne Ave. Shortly after the move, The Arc partnered with the Delaware County Intermediate Unit to make the store a job training site. Since that day, students, in apprenticeship for sustainable employment under the supervision of professional trainers DCIU Nouvelles Options/Transition vers l’Emploi, constitute the staff of the store.
Currently training nine students, ages 18-21, DCIU New Options site trainers Joan Steven and Brian Jennings oversee approximately 2-4 students who train at the workshop each day. There is a site trainer on site at all times.
Drexel Hill resident Steven has been training students at the shop for 12 years.
“I love working at this store and especially enjoy working with the students,” said Steven. “My role is very rewarding as I see them gaining the professional skills and then working independently with clients.”
Three of the nine student interns receive a paycheck for their work, thanks to a scholarship obtained through DCARO. Students learn to perform tasks that an employee would normally do such as vacuuming, sweeping, sorting donations, putting clothes on shelves and items on shelves, cleaning and dusting counters and windows, changing display cases , setting prices, working at the cash register, taking out the trash, helping people donate from their vehicles, making seasonal changes to the store, removing empty hangers from racks and more.
“We serve, support and train students across Delaware County to enrich their lives and provide a gateway of opportunity for the next chapter in their lives,” explained Lisa Muss, DCIU Options Program Site Coordinator. “In addition to living up to the motto ‘Reduce, Recycle, Repeat’ and providing this important resource to the community, the thrift store actually helps students’ future careers by teaching them skills for gainful employment.”
Muss, a Media resident, oversees the vocational training of DCIU students, along with seven vocational trainers, at several Delaware County locations, including the Thrift Shop on the Avenue, Boeing, Millers Ale House, Giant, Morton Post Office, Villanova, YMCA, Acme, Goodwill in Upper Darby and Swarthmore and many more.
The store, which is leased to Deborah Whitehead, was destroyed in a fire on December 7, 2020, but reopened, after extensive renovations, in November 2021. DCARO updated the store with new lighting, new walls and ceilings, paint, carpets, and a donation prep station with sinks in the back of the store. Although the store is sparkling new with recent renovations, the thrift store on the avenue has retained its same recognizable and recognizable storefront on Lansdowne Avenue. The DCARO pays the store’s rent and insurance, while the DCIU pays the electricity and telephone bills.
Boutique staff are grateful for donations and accept men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as household items, toys, books and CDs, small furniture, jewelry, seasonal decor , small work and other electronic devices, books and other items. In addition to store inventory, the boutique is also always grateful for donations of hangers, racks, mannequins, tools, bins and shelves. Store staff said donations were in short supply during the pandemic, so they hope that will change now that the community has largely returned to normal.
Donations can be brought to the store during normal business hours. So far, word of mouth has spread that the store is open and accepting donations. Donations can be brought to the entrance or back, but should not be left outside or they will be ruined in bad weather.
The thrift store on the avenue attracts shoppers who believe in its mission, as well as many neighborhood shoppers who come by foot, train or bus, as the store is conveniently located on busy Lansdowne Avenue . The “regulars” come to the store every week, always on the lookout for new stock. The store has municipal off-street parking in the rear, as well as metered parking on its front and side street.
“I stop by the store at least twice a month,” West Philadelphia shopper Camille Canada said, as she browsed through merchandise in the store last week. She said she had been a customer there for at least a dozen years.
“They have clean clothes in good condition here, nice books and games, and I bought a radio here that I really like and still use,” commented Canada while browsing the book selections and chose one over the chair to buy.
“I especially like their prices here,” she added with a knowing smile, as she stood at the counter, her arm loaded with items, ready to pay.
Throughout the year, the Thrift Shop on the Avenue hosts sales, including a tote bag sale at the end of each season. The store only accepts cash. Staff are happy to answer phone inquiries when customers call to ask if the store has certain items before they enter the store.
“We invite the public to come and see what we have to offer, as well as meet the young men and women trained here at the store,” said DCARO chief executive Eileen MacDonald. “DCARO is committed to continuing to provide these vocational training opportunities, administered by the DCIU, for the benefit of our young people living with developmental disabilities in Delaware County. We are proud to partner with DCIU in this very important undertaking.
Thrift Shop on The Avenue is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. From May 7, the boutique will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, follow “Thrift Shop on the Avenue” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, call 267-874-8208 or email [email protected] org or Lisa Muss at [email protected] or visit https://www.dciu.org/Page/728. For more information about the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Center, visit https://www.delcoadvocacy.org.