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4 min read

Reselling Goods, Rebuilding Lives: UGM Thrift Stores offer life change

Whether you’re outfitting a new college dorm or stocking up on cozy sweaters, if you’re shopping at a thrift store, chances are you’re after a good deal. It's no secret that we all need our dollar to go a little further these days. The good news is that at UGM Thrift Stores, your dollar doesn’t only go further on the product you buy, but it goes toward creating life-changing opportunities for people in need.

We connected with Luke Riddle, retail manager at the UGM Thrift Store downtown Spokane, to get an up close and personal look at how our three stores’ everyday operations provide hope to the community.

LukeRiddle

 


A Chance to Contribute

“What we’re doing is taking men and women from our shelters and programs and providing them with opportunities to reenter the workforce in a way that’s holistic. If they’re at a place in their lives where they want that fresh start and they want to pave a new path in life, then we want to offer them a workplace that’s congruent with that desire, a work environment that can speak life into them.” In addition to an uplifting environment, he says that UGM’s employment training programs offer the chance to learn new work skills, develop a strong work ethic, and give back to the Mission.

 

“We prepare them for a job outside of UGM where instead of being poured into, they’ll get to pour out.”

 


Luke explains that there are a few ways to enter UGM’s Employment Ready Program (ERP) and Employment Training Opportunities (ETO). Employment Ready Program participants are typically men and women who come to UGM with their primary need being to secure a job. Many have poor work histories or other barriers to employment including a record of incarceration, but most are not battling addictions. Those participating in the ETO program, however, are individuals who have worked through addictions or other personal issues within UGM’s long-term recovery program and are ready to start transitioning back into society.

ETO-1

“We give them assigned tasks and duties and we treat them just like every other employee,” Luke says. “I’m glad we’re not just shoving them back into the workforce, but we’re giving them an opportunity for growth inside a place where we understand that people stumble. We provide a safe and uplifting environment and we prepare them for a job outside of UGM where instead of being poured into, they’ll get to pour out.”

 


A Culture of Recovery

Similar to how our Recovery programs work, Luke says he leads his team through a lens of grace and a belief in redemption. “If someone has what some would call a ‘checkered past’, I don't look at that. My assistant manager has had his own story and it’s a wonderful story and I don’t see his past; I see his present because Christ has made him a new creation.

 

“You work with them where they’re at but you help them understand you don’t get to stay where you’re at.”

 


“When it comes to someone who’s had a bad past and they’re not willing to let go,” he adds, “that requires care and effort, but I look at it as Christ was willing to do everything for me so I'm going to be willing to give this employee everything I can.” Luke says in that case, Christ-like encouragement comes through establishing boundaries and setting an expectation of growth. “You tell them, ‘We show up on time,’ but maybe the first time, they don’t show up on time, and you don’t just chop them then and there; you sit down with them and connect with them and find what speaks to them. You work with them where they’re at but you help them understand you don’t get to stay where you’re at—just like Christ loves us where we are, but He also wants us to grow in Him. You figure out how to connect with them, you don’t cast judgment, but you walk alongside them. Sometimes good leadership is coming up behind someone and helping them up.”

 

 

A Christ-Centered Environment

In addition to encouraging professional and personal growth, Luke says that UGM store managers look for ways to help their staff grow spiritually. “Our mission is to help the homeless but the thing I think UGM does really well that we don’t always broadcast is that we actually help people with their walk with Christ.” He says that UGM’s Christ-centered environment was what brought him to UGM in the first place. “That’s why I wanted to come here. I said ‘God, put me in a place that will humble me, but also give me the ability to grow, and surround me with people who don’t see me for who I was but for who you have created me to be.’ And He really did.

 

“We’re not just bringing people into the workforce, we’re bringing people into the Kingdom.”

 


“When you work in ministry you need a way to support your family and you also want to give back and I think that’s why we’re here. God calls us to work for God not for man. I think UGM does a really good job of that. From our daily devotional huddles to being able to come to a team member for prayer, we’re not just bringing people into the workforce, we’re bringing people into the Kingdom.

FunThrift

“For me, working here is about UGM’s mission of bringing people into society as contributing members—and not just as contributing members, but as godly men and women. That’s my goal: not to have people working for me, but to be here when people come into the store and say, ‘Something’s different…’ That’s not just because our displays are better or because it’s clean, neat, and organized, but because it’s Christ-centered.”

 

 

The Customer Connection

 

“We’re not just making money to make money; we’re making money because what they’re doing in the shelters... is life-changing.”

 

Luke describes the employment training programs as an equal benefit to residents, staff, and customers. “For us in the Thrift Stores, being able to see a representative of what the Mission is accomplishing—for a time I thought it was just a beautiful story, but to see the men and women, and see that it’s not just a story; it’s a person. I get to see their struggles and hear how Christ has overcome in their life. Having them in the store is wonderful for the employees. It reminds us why we are here: we’re not just making money to make money; we’re making money because what they’re doing in the shelters and what they’re doing in the programs is life-changing. Not just temporarily life-changing but eternally life-changing.”

CustomerAtRegister

Every donation and every purchase at UGM Thrift Stores goes not only toward providing on-the-job training for people in need, but 88% of all UGM proceeds go toward program services at UGM shelters. 

 

 

 

Safety, a plan, and time. Learn more about UGM's pathway out of homelessness. >>

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