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Thriftshop is turning point for those inside

It is a lot more than a place to find bargains ... although there are lots of those. Its a place where people can learn new skills and build their self esteem, for others its part of a person's family -- a place to feel comfortable. And don't forget the bargains...
On one side of the room a small white sticker has $12 printed on it. That price is for a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas.
   On the other side, a stuffed bear sells for 25 cents. It's white with red paws.
   Coats are $3 a piece, t-shirts 50 cents.
   If it's a Jacques Cousteau jigsaw puzzle you're after, you're in luck.
   They have one of those, too. It sells for 10 cents.
   These items appear in one of the newest stores in Prineville. They are placed neatly on shelves and hung on racks. But the Turning Point Thriftstore, which opened Tuesday on 450 W. Fourth St., isn't just about the merchandise.
   Take a closer look, you'll discover there's more.
   You might see 43-year-old Robin Paulsen greeting customers or tending the cash register. Perhaps 57-year-old Melvin "Red" Kirby has stopped by, maybe to listen to some of the friends he has made or simply to share a story of his own.
   As part of The Turning Point Club House, The Turning Point Thirftstore works in many ways. It gives the community an alternative place to buy things, while it gives the workers a place to learn accounting and other skills.
   The club house opened about a year ago and has about 25 clients, ranging from the age of 19 to those in the late 60s.
   "The clients are people with persistent mental illness issues like depression and anxiety," explained Lori Azbill, community service coordinator for Crook County Mental Health.
   "The thriftstore is the work project they decided on. The purpose of the thriftstore is to provide skills for the members and to help build their self esteem."
   The thriftstore, open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, is fully run and operated by the clients of the club house.
   Donations are always welcome, although they don't accept large items like furniture.
   "Everyone here is on a volunteer basis," Azbill said. "I think it really gives the members a sense of accomplishment. They can see they really have gotten a lot from giving back to the community.
   "The thriftstore brings to the program the chance for the members to build some skills. They actually do the accounting. They work the cash register and they do the sorting. All of the money goes back into the program."
   Most of the members at Turning Point have been referred by Crook County Mental Health. There is no cost to the members. They even go on field trips twice a month.
   "One thing this place is really useful for is when the members go into a personal crisis, they come up here and talk with other members instead of calling the crisis line," Azbill said.
   "So the Mental Health department has seen a decrease in crisis calls and a decrease in hospitalization since we opened this place a year ago."
   For members like Melvin "Red" Kirby and Robin Paulsen, Turning Point is an opportunity to be a part of one of the newest thriftstores in town, but it's also a lot more.
   "It gives you a place where you feel you belong," Paulsen said.
   As for "Red," he considers Turning Point part of his family.
   It's where he feels the most comfortable.
   "People ask you what the definition of mental illness is and there is no definition of mental illness." "To me, the people who sit here are normal. The people out there are abnormal," he said pointing out the door of Turning Point. "That's what I'm talking about. I communicate with the people here to where once I walk out that door, it's like I'm talking to a bunch of people who don't make sense to me.