Heart of Oregon Corps remodels thrift store

Plans to reopen in mid-November

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Store manager Lisa Stearns, left, and her mother Trish Jorgenson, who serves on the Heart of Oregon Corps Board of Directors, take a break from sorting and organizing merchandise in the store on Monday, to visit with Riley, their poodle and service dog. The hospital is selling the building and business, which should reopen in November.

After a remodel of the interior, the former hospital thrift store will reopen as the Heart of Oregon Corps Thrift Store some time in mid- to late November.
   "Our aim is to be open before Thanksgiving," said Amy Mentuck, of Bend, director of development for Heart of Oregon Corps.
   The nonprofit organization, which trains young people, is in the process of purchasing the building and contents from Mountain View Hospital District, which has had a thrift store operated by the MVH Auxiliary in various locations since 1967.
   "Our board of directors has voted unanimously to move forward with the purchase of the thrift store and is finalizing the contract with the hospital," Mentuck said, noting that the changeover is going smoothly.
   Heart of Oregon Corps is remodeling the building at 59 S.E. Fifth St. to add a training area where students will sort and price merchandise, a bathroom that meets Americans With Disabilities Act standards, more storage for seasonal items, and an area for a washer, dryer and dishwasher to ensure that donated items are clean and in good condition.
   On Monday, Lisa Stearns, of Redmond, started work as the store manager -- the only paid employee. Stearns, who formerly managed the Redmond Humane Society Thrift Store, had been volunteering her time at the store to get it set up.
   She and her mother, Trish Jorgenson, who serves on the organization's board of directors, were organizing books, cards and DVDs.
   "We've really purged this (store)," said Jorgenson. "It's going to be higher quality stuff -- no broken zippers, no stains, no rips. We've got some nice things."
   Stearns said that the wide assortment of merchandise -- from small appliances to clothing -- will be reasonably price. "It's going to be affordable for the folks here in Madras," she said.
   There will be weekly sales and constant rotation of merchandise. "If it's dated and doesn't sell, we'll throw it out, or recycle it, or donate it," she said.
   The store has long racks for displaying clothing, which will be sorted by size for women, men and children.
   "The Opportunity Foundation has offered to help us bundle and bale clothing that is not saleable," said Mentuck.
   The exterior of the business will be repainted with funding from the Madras Redevelopment Commission's paint grant program, and a new sign will be installed.
   Mentuck and Jeanie Gentry, CEO of Mountain View Hospital, hope that members of the hospital auxiliary, which formerly operated the thrift store, will continue to volunteer at the store.
   "They have extensive experience working at the store," said Mentuck, who would like to see auxiliary members stay involved as mentors. "We're looking for caring adults in the community to serve as mentors to our young people."
   Heart of Oregon Corps' programs are funded through federal grants and private foundations. Income from the thrift store will continue to support hospital scholarships and the Heart of Oregon Corps training program.
   "Their payments to the foundation will go to the scholarship fund and to support the hospital," Gentry said.
   Heart of Oregon Corps, which emphasizes helping young people with jobs, education and stewardship, has been operating in Central Oregon for the past 12 years, but the thrift store represents a new enterprise for training young people.
   "Essentially, the thrift store allows us to have a year-round job skills training program in Jefferson County," said Mentuck, who will be working with the Madras High School Youth Transition Program to determine how many students will be available for the training.
   An AmeriCorps volunteer, who will receive a living stipend, will lead the volunteers and assist the store manager, Mentuck said.
   Youths will be trained to greet and assist customers, sort and stock, and run a cash register, among other skills. "As the students gain competency, they can help to find a job placement opportunity in the community," she said.
   Since 2000, the organization has trained youths through and expanding set of programs, including the Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps; a Stewardship program for young people in transitional school situations; a Clean Energy Service Corps program; and YouthBuild, a program in which young people build affordable housing.
   Although youths in the county have been employed by YCC and other programs, she said, "We wanted to expand our service area into Jefferson County, knowing there's a high level of need addressing the youth unemployment crisis."
   "Our goal with the thrift store really is to support the Heart of Oregon Corps mission, which is to inspire and empower positive change in the lives of young people through jobs, education and stewardship," said Mentuck. "We hope to empower young people to acquire the skills they need to become successful community members."
   Merchandise can be left during business hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
   "We do not welcome dumping; that is illegal," said Mentuck, who indicated that the city of Madras will assist the business with purchase of a security camera to help stop the illegal dumping, which has cost the organization hundreds of dollars in disposal fees.
   "We welcome clean, saleable household goods and clothing," she said. "We will have a small area for select furniture; we will pick something up if it's in excellent condition."
   The store can be reached at 541-475-7559.