Sunset Celebrates 5th Birthday in Oxford
There’s a place in Oxford that’s home to frequent laughter, thrifty shopping opportunities, clean laundry, and a lot of smiles.
The Sunset Community Oxford Thrift Store celebrated its fifth anniversary this week, a time for celebration and reflection on how far this social enterprise has come.
Recognition of the store’s success came in the form of certificates of congratulations from the Province of Nova Scotia, The Municipality of Cumberland County, and the Town of Oxford.
On-hand for the festivities were Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott, Oxford Mayor Greg Henley, and Sunset Community CEO Julie Hoeg. Local MLA Tory Rushton sent his regrets, with Mayor Scott delivering the province’s certificate on his behalf.
The Thrift Store, located in the heart of Oxford, was outfitted with birthday decorations, a cake, karaoke entertainment, and the presentation of certificates of recognition to participants Duncan Fraser, Mary LeMaistre, and employee Patti Beaton.
Opening early in 2018, the Oxford operation of the Pugwash-headquartered organization has grown from a one-year experiment into a long-term centre of activity for the town.
Sunset provides adults living with various disabilities an opportunity to gain vocational experience and expanded social interaction with their peers and the community at large.
The parent organization serves its clientele with support for independent living, operates an adult residential centre, a licensed group home, and the two social enterprises in Pugwash and Oxford.
Randy Thompson is the Manager of Sunset Industries. He was one of those who argued in favour of the Oxford store experiment. He says Sunset has offered programming for adults with disabilities since the 1980s, but in a survey of surrounding communities, where the organization hoped to expand, Oxford was notable for having no day programs, no sheltered workshops, and no sheltered employment.
Thompson says former Oxford Mayor Bill Park owned the historic building on the corner of Main and Water streets, and was very supportive of the Sunset Oxford initiative. A rental agreement was struck, and shortly thereafter Park passed away. Thompson says his family worked with Sunset to arrange a sale of the building on favourable terms that provided long-term stability to the Oxford operation.
The Oxford store includes a thrift shop, a laundromat, and a programming space where participants learn new skills and gain experience. Some 23 participants are involved each week. Also soon to begin is a twice-weekly day program that will include twelve participants in craft work and other activities.
Oxford store manager Wade Adshade says there are plans this summer to have more programming outside of the store, in the broader community.
Adshade says three of the participants have graduated to become employees in the laundromat: Morgan Rushton, Brian O'Neil and Damian Hurley.
Adshade believes many employers would not offer jobs to people who are living with disabilities, but their roles at Sunset Oxford show that they are able to integrate well with retail operations.
The Thrift Store also has a new casual employee — Emily Moore — adding to the existing team of Patti Beaton and Rodney Hawes, the vocational counsellors.
Adshade credits a deal struck with Oxford Frozen Foods — which sends a sizeable laundry order every week — as providing economic stability to the store, and employment opportunities for participants.
He also notes the significant increase in Oxford’s population, with workers moving into town for employment at the frozen foods plant, as driving sales in the Thrift Store and by extension, downtown economic activity as a whole.
The Oxford Thrift Store benefitted from grants from the DirectioNS Council of Nova Scotia, which provides funding to support organizations which deliver vocational services to adults with disabilities. Funds from DirectioNS enabled the purchase of equipment for the laundromat facility.
The Sunset Community https://thesunsetcommunity.ca/
Oxford Thrift Store https://thesunsetcommunity.ca/oxford/
DirectioNS Council https://directionscouncil.org/
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