FLINT, Michigan—There’s a fully windowed garage door, exposed brick, and an empty floor ready to showcase resale boutique items and offer a new opportunity to the foster youth soon to be employed there.
Located on West Second Street, just off the downtown South Saginaw Street corridor in downtown Flint, this is the new home of Reclaimed. An eclectic storefront with new and vintage clothes, homegoods, accessories and appliances — it will sell goods donated to Whaley Children’s Center, raise money for the unique home for children, and provide job opportunities to young adults who grew up in foster care.
“Reclaimed is so many things to so many people, but to us, collectively, it's a new perspective. It’s a new beginning, and for a lot of people, it’s a second chance,” said Mindy Williams, president and CEO of Whaley Children’s Center.
Renovations are ongoing in the space located in the historic Perry Drugs building, but Williams said Reclaimed is expected to open Oct. 1.
The idea for Reclaimed was born out a trip Williams took to Sunshine Acres Children's Home in Arizona, when she noticed a unique extension of their program she wanted to replicate.
“The kids that lived there — as they got older ... they moved to an independent living program,” said Williams. “When they’re in the independent living program, then they’re allowed to work in … the resale shop — which made so much sense to me. I came back here on fire.”
At Whaley Children’s Center they already had donations, all they needed was a storefront. In July 2018, she was contacted by a funder offering to help her develop a program downtown.
Reclaimed will employ current and former foster youth who are between the ages of 17 and 25.
“It gives them confidence to be able to find that next job,” said Ashliegh Sanders, director of development at Whaley Children's Center. “The relationships they could create will also be extremely beneficial for them, for the future.”
More than half of the 42 children housed at Whaley are ready for employment, but the face challenging circumstances. They do not have a cellphone, a permanent address, or consistent transportation can be an impediment to employment. In her 15 years in child welfare, Williams had rarely seen that issue addressed locally, until now.
After a rigorous application process, only a couple Whaley youth will begin working in the boutique where they will learn customer service, marketing, social media strategy, T-shirt screen printing, and more.
Reclaimed is meant to have something for everyone who walks through the door from clothing to accessories, appliances, home goods, Williams said. About 60 percent of the items will be from donations and the rest will be sourced from wholesale providers.
All earnings will be funneled back to Whaley Children's Center and its youth, Williams said.
“They need to know they’re cared about and that they’re loved and that someones got (their) back,” said Williams. “If no one else is going to fill this hole and break that cycle with them not being able to get a job, we are.”
Whaley Children’s Center is still accepting donations. For more information, contact Ashleigh Sanders at 810-600-0110 or visit its Facebook page