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Survivors Shop Free

Ohio thrift store helps survivors of domestic abuse get a fresh start

  • May 25, 2016
  • By domesticshelters.org
Survivors Shop Free

When a domestic violence survivor decides to leave their abuser, furnishing his or her new home can be an obstacle. Even survivors on solid financial footing can be overwhelmed at the expense and effort required to obtain everything from dishes to dustpans to dressers.

For survivors in north central Ohio, starting over is a little bit easier. What Goes ‘Round Thrift Shoppe invites them to come into the store and gather the items they need at no cost. The store sells furniture, household goods, small appliances and other items that people have donated. Proceeds from the store’s sales benefit the Hospice of North Central Ohio.

Jennifer McWilliams, case manager at Rape Crisis Domestic Violence Safe Haven, the local shelter that connects survivors with the thrift store, says, “The women are empowered to pick their own stuff and to go shopping for the things they need, whether they are going to transitional housing or to their own housing.”

Small Beginnings

The program began nearly eight years ago when Cindy McDonnell covered a little 8-foot table in goods and opened up shop. As word got out, donated goods poured in and the store grew. “Now it’s a phenomenal upscale thrift shop supported by the community. We started with a handful of volunteers and now we have 80,” says Deb Brown, the store’s manager. McDonnell retired last fall but the store continues to build on her success. “She spearheaded the whole thing,” Brown adds.

Brown says the store and its volunteers are glad they are able to make a difference for survivors who are going through a difficult transition. “We’re here to help,” she says. “If the shelter has a client in need, they make a list, and we go through and fulfill their needs, whether it’s pots and pans, a microwave, a kitchen table, clothing, bedding – anything that would make their transition go more smoothly.” She notes that if a survivor comes in with a child they make sure the child gets a toy or puzzle. “We want to make sure everyone feels important when they come in here.”

Committed to Helping

The store’s volunteers know that some of the goods are donated to domestic violence survivors so they remain discreet about their special clientele. Clients from the shelter may come in on their own or with an advocate from the shelter. “We are here to help others. [Women’s issues] are close to our heart—the majority of our volunteers are women and we are strongly committed to helping women in need,” Brown says.

“We make it very respectful. We don’t want them to feel any shame and we don’t want to make it difficult. We tell them, ‘We don’t need to know your last name. We’re here to help you. We want to make sure you are successful when you leave us,’” Brown says. She may talk to the survivors about their needs as they gather items, and add things they might have forgotten. “They might need hand towels or even a rug for the bathroom—things we might take for granted,” she says.

Brown estimates that over the years the shop has helped hundreds of people. She says, “If we can be there to help them and to make it a little easier, that’s what we want to do.”

Do You Know a Domestic Violence Hero?

DomesticShelters.org is looking for individuals doing heroic things, big or small, within their communities to help survivors of domestic violence. If you know someone, let us know about them by emailing Amanda@DomesticShelters.org and they may be featured in an upcoming story. #DomesticViolenceHeroes