Through selling gently used clothing, Elevated Communities aims at empowering adults with disabilities through an on-the-job work program.
Elevated Communities is a thrift shop inside a small repurposed house across from Roosevelt Park at 726 Coffman St. Though the men and women second-hand shop opened late October last year, it sits under its parent organization Elevated Supports, a Longmont nonprofit focused on clients with developmental disabilities established in 2016.
Elevated Supports offers resources that aid adults living independently, including home making training, encouragement for community involvement and mentorship for rental and home seekers.
The new thrift shop falls in line with Elevated Supports’ mission — providing the tools for independence — as the Supported Employment Program of the nonprofit. Elevated Supports’ employment branch works with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation(DVR) and Home and community based services (HCBS) waiver recipients.
The end goal is to help place the program trainees into permanent employment, according to Nicole Newsom, executive director for Elevated Supports.
“Really our overall focus is for people to be able to learn job skills that they can carry into the community and an independent job,”Newsom said. “So all of those skills that you learn in any job that you have, we're hoping that we can hone those in so that they can transfer to a job in the community.”
Newsom said they decided on a thrift shop as the business model for the program because of the various job experiences it offers. Employees can learn customer service, time management, store maintenance, managing and laundering of donations.
Up until Elevated Communities' first hire right before Christmas, the store was fully operated by Elevated Supports’ staff. The shop plans to onboard a couple more hires this month, Newsom said.
Shifts range between two and four hours with one-on-one training. There isn’t a set period for the program, and it varies in length based on the employee’s needs.
“It just depends on the person and how much time they need. Somebody may come and do an assessment in a day and we can identify that they have some really great job skills, have experience and that can easily transition to another job in the community,” Newsom said. “There might be other folks that need to be here for two or more months, while they work on those job skills. So it's really just based on the person's needs and skill level.”
Staying true to its name, Elevated Communities aims at engaging with locals by providing affordable work attire. The thrift store prioritizes donations of business casual clothing and prices most items around $10 or less.
“I think employment is such an important part of our day to day lives and a lot of times if people have been out of the workforce for a long time, their clothes are more, you know, casual — sweats and T-shirts — and having to come up with a whole new wardrobe can be really costly,” Newsom said. “We actually recently had a participant that got a job in the community and desperately needed some new clothes to wear to her job and she was able to come in and we helped her pick out five outfits and it was $80. So we love that we could provide her with enough clothing to feel confident going to work every day during the week and it didn't cost her more than she could afford.”
Elevated Communities holds regular sales with its weekly “Any six items for $25” sale on Saturdays. The store launched its vouchers for Marshall fire victims on Jan. 8, where those affected by the Boulder County fire can exchange a voucher for three outfits.
Newsom said the store is seeking more donations to supply the voucher program. There’s a donation box open 24/7 behind the building. Donations are also accepted in store during is open hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
At the end of the day, Elevated Communities isn’t about running a store, and pricing items low benefits the employees and customers alike.
“Our focus for the store isn't necessarily to make a big profit with our sales, but to really have enough movement, so that it is a worthwhile work assessment for the people coming in to learn skills,” Nesom said. “It's really about having enough movement, so that people can come in and be familiar with our store, you can learn from the participants that are working here, learn from them, and give them a good experience.”