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Bargain shopping helps give back

Times Photo/Michelle Baker
Community Thrift greeter Anthony Patrick gets a hug from regular shopper Vonda Byrd.
Vonda Byrd of Front Royal loves to stop at Community Thrift in Manassas to check out the clothes and to check up on a friend who works there.

“She comes here all the time,” said Anthony Patrick, the unofficial store greeter and a ServiceSource client.

“When I don’t see you, I ask for you,” Byrd replied to her friend during a recent shopping trip.

Community Thrift is an independent division of ServiceSource, which offers services to people with disabilities through employment training, rehabilitation, housing and support. As part of that effort, the store provides paid work opportunities for its clients so they can learn job skills and interact with the community.

Regular customers like Byrd recognize this and shop at Community Thrift because of it.

The store is run by Leslie Morris, the new manager who has previously run thrift stores in Florida.

“It is so rewarding working here,” she said. “I thought it would be a challenge.”

At the end of the day, Morris counts the day’s sales receipts but she also counts the accomplishments of her staff of 12 and the ServiceSource clients who work with her team.

“They are so proud of their accomplishments every day,” she said.

Open seven days a week, Community Thrift schedules work for dozens of individuals with varying levels of disabilities.

“I’ve been working for the store since it opened in 1999,” said ServiceSource enclave supervisor Diannah Hicks, whose current position involves showing the workers the different jobs, teaching them new skills, and monitoring their work. “They do everything here from cleaning bathrooms, sorting clothes, hanging clothes and accepting donations.”

Hicks said that some of the workers have apartments and are “pretty independent” while others live with their parents or in a group home.

Byrd, who works as an attendant on the special needs bus for New Direction and Victory Elementary School, said she loves working and talking with individuals who have special needs and that's one of the reasons why she shops at Community Thrift.

Plus, she said, the workers there “are always friendly.”

For her part, Morris is instituting new store strategies like color coding racks for the back but she's also looking for ways to increase the store’s visibility and donation level.

“It’s a work in progress,” Morris said, adding she hopes as the community sees the store name more, donations will increase.

The store takes in donations of lightly used clothing, books, kitchenware and household appliances. Receipts from the sales stay in the Northern Virginia area to help provide more resources.

Donations can be made at the store, 7381 Sudley Road, or by calling 703-392-1234 to arrange pick-up. To donate a car, boat, truck, motorcycle or RV, call 877-227-7487 ext. 1708.
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