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EARC’s hidden treasure

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND— Justin Grimes loves his job so much that he shops there, too. It’s a thrifty place with competitive prices, he said of the EARC Thrift Store at 92 E. 15th St.
“If I find a movie that I want — I did the other day — ‘The Iron Giant,’ I bought it and it was for just $1,” he said while arranging shirts for sale.
Grimes was one of a group of men and women with developmental disabilities working at the Edmond thrift store.
“I think it’s got better prices than any other store,” he said.
Employment and Residential Centers is a nonprofit United Way agency providing several levels of residential and employment care for adults with developmental disabilities in Edmond. Services other than the thrift shops include the Nova Center, in-home support services, job coaching, the Trails Workshop and two group homes.
In May, EARC celebrated the grand opening of its 4,000-square-foot thrift store at 92 E. 15th St. The expansion was necessary to expand EARC program funding for people with developmental disabilities.
“We couldn’t have had these work crews and given all these people jobs that are making them productive and reducing their dependence on the government support without having this extra space,” said Bonnie Wells, EARC executive director.
But those proceeds from the East 15th Street thrift store have not met EARC’s expectations, Wells said. With the store near the back of a shopping strip, the location has experienced poor visibility from passersby on 15th Street, Wells said.
“We’ve had all this customer base at the old store but people don’t know where we’re at now,” she said.
“Even though we haven’t moved that far from the 100 E. Third address, they just don’t know where to find us anymore.”
New Edmond residents also need to know where the thrift store is, said Kim Pittman, who manages the two thrift stores in Edmond.
EARC’s original thrift store opened in 1969 and continues to operate at its 100 E. Third St. location as a donation site and for sales of household goods, furniture, toys and appliances. Donations of goods are tax deductible.
“Edmond is just fantastic for donations of clothing and furniture and other items they give,” Wells said.
The two Edmond stores employ 11 people with developmental disabilities. Overall, EARC employs nearly 60 people with developmental disabilities.
“I hang pants — look at the clothes — make sure they don’t have any stains, holes in them,” Grimes said.
Wells said volunteers also are welcome to help sort through clothing and help display items.
“We really appreciate Edmond’s support,” Wells said. “And we have all these fantastic things — a lot of collectibles — a lot of retro-type clothing. It’s just a little treasure chest and they just need to come find us.”

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DREW HARMON/The Edmond Sun Employment And Residential Centers manager Kim Pittman and crew member Justin Grimes sit in the shoe area at their new store on 15th Street between Broadway and Boulevard on Thursday afternoon.

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