A local nonprofit’s new retail venture is providing jobs and resources to support Northwest Arkansans recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Oasis of Hope Second Chance Thrift Shop opened in April and is a project of the nonprofit Oasis of Northwest Arkansas, which provides housing and resources for women in recovery and their children. Proceeds from shop sales help fund the organization, but individuals in recovery can shop at the store free of charge, executive director LaDonna Humphrey said.
The shop was built almost exclusively by people in recovery and their families, Humphrey said. It is made primarily of refurbished or recycled materials to send the message that anything can be made new again.
“That’s what we want people in recovery to understand,” Humphrey said. “That just because they’ve made these mistakes, that life isn’t over. They can rebuild their lives.”
The thrift store also houses a coffee shop called Cup of Hope. Coffee shop manager Courtney Starnes came to Oasis in August 2020 with nowhere else to go and no available resources, she said. As Starnes worked the recovery program, Humphrey asked her to manage the coffee shop starting in April 2021.
Starnes said she is appreciative of the support she has received through Oasis of Northwest Arkansas’ program. It takes strength for those struggling with addiction to seek help and work to rebuild their lives, and having people on their side can help a recovering individual stay hopeful, she said.
“You are (among) a network of people that not only care about you but understand your story,” Starnes said. “Or even if they don’t understand your story, they are open and willing to listen and they don’t look down upon you.”
Haley Lawhon, development director for Oasis of Northwest Arkansas, said she loves the shop’s atmosphere and thinks it is a very personable and gracious environment for those in recovery.
Lawhon estimates that the store’s available items have tripled since its soft opening in April, and said she thinks it has been amazing to see the shop’s impact on the community. In one memorable example, a customer came in to pick out backpacks for their childrens’ return to school, she said.
“Things like that, I know personally go so far for someone,” Lawhon said. “It means more than you can express, because when you don’t have those resources, what are you supposed to do, you know? For them to come in and feel like this is a safe and secure place like our mission states, I just think the impact continues to grow from there.”
Oasis’ recovery program also connects recovering women with resources including counseling, transportation and healthcare, Starnes said. People in recovery also have the opportunity to earn community service hours by working at the thrift shop. Arkansans in recovery had logged 3,720 community service hours as of Tuesday, Humphrey said.
Although there are many thrift shops in Northwest Arkansas, including several operated by nonprofits, Humphrey said she thinks Oasis of Hope Second Chance Thrift Shop is unique because it has a boutique-like feel with thrift shop prices.
“The whole goal here is that people will come in and it will be warm and welcoming, and if women and men in recovery need to shop to rebuild their lives, they can do it in a dignified way,” Humphrey said. “They feel like they’re shopping in an upscale boutique.”