The Salvation Army Family Store sign

Behind the scenes of the Family Stores

The Salvation Army Family Store sign

by Rebecca Reap, Intern
Photos by Teodora Pogonot

You’ve probably seen or heard of The Salvation Army Family Stores. You may have even shopped there to find pieces for a do-it-yourself project or costume. However, I doubt you know all that goes on behind the scenes of the Family Stores and the impact you have when you shop there!

As an intern here at The Salvation Army this summer, I toured the Family Store Warehouse and Adult Rehabilitation Center. It was an eye opening experience that showed me not only all the work that goes into each item being sold at the Family Stores but also the lives that are shaped and changed by every purchase.

Our tour began at the Adult Rehabilitation Center. Prior to this visit, I had no knowledge this Center existed let alone had anything to do with The Salvation Army and its Family Stores. I quickly learned it has everything to do with it! The Adult Rehabilitation Center is a center for men who have chosen to seek help in overcoming their addictions. On our tour we visited the dorm-like rooms where the men live during their treatment.

The men at the Adult Rehabilitation Center sleep in dorm-like rooms.

The men at the Adult Rehabilitation Center sleep in dorm-like rooms.

We stopped by classrooms where clients attend life skills classes and the library filled with a variety of books and a supply of blank greeting cards for them to write to their loved ones. Our tour guide planned to introduce us to a social worker, counselor, and chaplain who worked at the center but all three were in the midst of their duties, providing guidance to their clients.

Dining room of the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Austin

Dining room of the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Austin

Along the tour we visited the recreation room and dining area where we saw men busy at work, cleaning and cooking. Our guide explained to us that part of the program includes work therapy and these clients’ duties are to maintain these areas within the center. Outside, we saw where most clients are assigned to participate in work therapy – The Family Store Warehouse.

The Salvation Army Family Store Warehouse on South Congress in Austin.

The Salvation Army Family Store Warehouse on South Congress in Austin

Some load and unload items, sort and divide by “good condition, poor condition, needs repairs” and others inside the warehouse actually clean and refurbish items that are delivered.

I had assumed that when the community dropped off items, they were just sent to the nearest store but in fact, each item goes through a series of processes to make it as new and improved as possible. Some of the men working there rebuild chairs and furniture as well as polish and upholster it. Others repair bikes, electronics and jewelry, sorting and prioritizing sale of these items.

It was amazing to see all the people here, working together to build a better life for themselves and taking pride in their work, knowing that every item sold will go to helping them and others conquer their addictions. We ended our tour in a Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue.

 

Clothing in the Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue in Austin

Clothing in the Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue in Austin

It was quiet, shoppers strolling by, their eyes scanning the shelves and racks. The shoppers were unaware that every one of these items and their purchases are saving another person from a life of addiction.

My passion for The Salvation Army and my own work here has grown immensely since my visit. Not only will I be shopping at the Family Stores now that I know about the treasures inside, but, like the men at the ARC, I will take pride in what I do and remember that it is about more than just a store or a sale. It’s about helping another person and making a better life.