Maryland Thrift Shop Provides Opportunity for Employees With Mental Illness - NBC4 Washington
Changing Minds

Changing Minds

Maryland Thrift Shop Provides Opportunity for Employees With Mental Illness

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It’s a store that carries just about anything you can think of and means just about everything to its employees. We want to take you inside Upscale Resale, a non-profit dedicated to employing adults with mental illness. News4's Melissa Mollet shows how the store is changing minds. (Published Tuesday, March 10, 2015)

    Upscale Resale carries just about anything you could think of -- and it means just about everything to its employees. The nonprofit thrift shop in Rockville, Maryland is dedicated to providing jobs for adults with mental illnesses.

    Joe Wolowitz has been greeting shoppers with a smile and a kind word for more than 11 years.

    "I love it," he said. "I really do."

    Upscale Resale is like a family. Employees say they feel it's a nonjudgmental place to work -- something they hadn't felt before.

    "I love it here because I don't feel like it's a mental illness situation," Cameron Sampson said. Sampson and her coworkers are all living with mental illnesses, Sampson with schizo-affective disorder.

    Wolowitz had a childhood-onset psychosis; another employee, James Becker, has paranoid schizophrenia.

    They all work at Upscale Resale, a thrift shop at 15130 N. Frederick Road run by Jobs Unlimited, Inc. The goal of the nonprofit is to help its participants learn job skills, gain financial independence and confidence.

    "Without us, I think it's safe to say a lot of them would be spending long periods of time in the hospital, long periods of time homeless," said Meredith Bowers, executive director of Jobs Unlimited, Inc.

    Shopper Thomas Witkop likes knowing that buying at Upscale Resale is also doing good.

    "I don't bargain too hard when I come here because the money goes to a good place," he said.

    Any money made on the donated items -- everything from clothes and accessories to furniture and DVDs -- goes to employees' salaries and operational costs like rent and heat.

    Jobs Unlimited was founded back in 1991. Over the years, they've hired hundreds of employees.

    Becker was the first on board. "Before I came to Jobs Unlimited, I had not held a job for more than nine months," he said.

    "I stuck with Jobs Unlimited and they stuck with me," he said.

    A Jobs Unlimited grant program allowed Becker to take classes at nearby Montgomery College, where he put his all into his school work, and now has a certificate in accounting.

    "People that knew me five years ago would not even believe that I could do that," he said.

    At the moment, Jobs Unlimited has 24 people working part time.

    "We've been -- I believe -- a wonderful organization for these 24 people," Bowers said, "but there's hundreds more we could serve if we had the funding to do it."

    Want to help? You can go here to learn how to donate furniture, clothing and other goods to Upscale Resale. To donate funds directly to Jobs Unlimited, go here.