Meet Jaclyn, Manager at the UGM Downtown Thrift Store
By Christy Zapata, UGM Volunteer
Although she couldn't see it at the time, God had been preparing Jaclyn Ferrell for her position as Manager of the Union Gospel Mission Downtown Thrift Store for a long time.
As a young mother of five, Jaclyn lost her first husband to suicide and her second husband to drug addiction. For the next 17 years, she struggled to provide a stable home for her children by herself - at times working three jobs. In order to stretch a dollar, keep shoes on her kids’ feet and food on the table, she became a regular thrift store shopper. The thrill of discovering 'hidden treasures' at second hand stores still excites her, and knowing her own store is full of just such treasures for the community makes her job a joy. Early in her career, Jaclyn took a temporary job in retail and quickly discovered she had a love for the work and a knack for merchandising, display, inventory and managing a sales team. She became an Assistant Store Manager and later moved to another store for more responsibility and higher pay. The climb up the corporate ladder was beginning to pay off, but it came with a price. A retail career means being away from your family on weekends, evenings and holidays. And although her financial worries had lessened, her children were struggling in her absence.
That’s when Lee Brown, UGM Director of In-Kind Resources, reached out to Jaclyn. He could see that she would be such a great fit at the UGM Thrift Store and asked her if she would consider a managerial position. The job would allow her more time at home with her family, and Sundays off, but it was a salary cut. "I was honored and excited and thought, Oh my goodness, to be able to give something back, to do service for the Lord among such brokenness and be transparent about my own brokenness would be a beautiful gift, but I was fearful to let go of the money." Although Jaclyn knew the Lord, fear of not being able to provide for her family ruled her life.
God continued to nudge her and create within her a desire to move from the corporate world to a job that was more meaningful, where employees actually lived out the core value statements posted on the break room wall, and a place she could be open about her faith. Lee kept reaching out and when she was laid off three years later, she was ready to stop living in fear and begin trusting God to take care of her needs.
"I thought that money was everything, but once I finally let go and let God, I experienced true peace. We have a saying here, 'We are stretched not stressed.’”
The corporate world provided a solid foundation of business, customer service and merchandising skills for Jaclyn, but the Thrift Stores are where she has truly come into her own, utilizing all the skills and talents God has given her for his purposes.
Today, she leads a team of 12 employees and 4 ETO's from UGM Recovery programs. She is able to combine her retail skills with her relational skills to mentor and encourage others."I've always felt drawn to people, being purposeful with people,” she said, “to interact and connect with them. I like to ask them, 'What is it you want to do with your career here?' I enjoy the hard conversations that are sometimes necessary because I want to build them and make them their best. I want them to feel good about their contribution and feel inspired about what they've created. Finding diamonds in the rough has always been fun for me. I like to create leaders in my realm, because in order for us to get the job done, we have to pull together."
For Jaclyn, it is a privilege to be called to work with the passion she has, using skills she knows so well, teaching others about retail and learning from them at the same time. Together, they are making their targets and sales goals in an atmosphere of love and belonging. She knows the importance of recognizing the value that the Lord sees in every one of us. For co-workers and customers facing trials in their lives, she is a safe person to talk with and be transparent, knowing she can relate to their struggles.
Although Jaclyn faced loss and hardship early on in life, she's thriving now. She is happily married to her husband of six years, Darren. Her children, older now, are starting their own journeys. She stays busy with her five grandchildren and is helping to raise her six-year old grandson.
"For many years I was trying to create my own plan, but God never gave up hope on me. Everyone has a story and I have an intense story of my own past that I can share, giving hope to others."
It is no surprise that her favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11: "’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’"
The UGM Thrift Stores are about so much more than finding bargains (although they are great for that). They're about providing goods, job training, financial resources and hope.