Sweaters, jackets, blouses and other items hang neatly in rows of clothing racks throughout the resale store.
Furniture and lamps fill the outskirts of shop’s room, and framed artwork lines the gray walls as sunlight pours in from adjacent windows. Throughout the store, employees are eager to assist clients.
But this store is different from other shops.
If you visit the St. Charles Furniture & Thrift Store, you may be assisted by one of the young Milwaukee students it employs. The resale store moved to its current location at 6731 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis last month.
Some thrift store employees participate in the St. Charles Youth Employment Services (YES) Program, which allows Milwaukee County youths to get work training and resume experience.
“The work program offers employees a fresh start and clean slate, from any circumstances they had been in or continue to struggle through,” said Scott Carpenter, vice president of St. Charles Youth & Family Services.
The Youth Employment Services Program and thrift store began eight years ago in partnership with WRAPAROUND Milwaukee, an organization that connects Milwaukeeans to personal service programs. Since its beginnings, the program has helped and employed more than 1,000 young students in Milwaukee.
“This is a voluntary program,” Carpenter said. “Kids opt into this, and that is a real positive thing for them in their journey in becoming adults.”
Employees are responsible for sorting, organizing, and stocking items, handling the register, and basic customer service and retail skills. Carpenter said the YES program not only gives students entry-level work experience, but also prepares students with personal skills for lifetime employment.
At the store’s grand opening in March, community well-wishes illuminated a whiteboard. “It’s all about promising futures.” “The store brings wonderful energy and I wish the youth well on this foundation that has been built.” The board also displayed some students’ remarks: “We learned patience.” “It’s made me feel good and more confident.”
St. Charles Furniture & Thrift Store accepts donations of clothing and home and office furniture. The store is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.