With the newly expanded Goodwill on 29 North, SPCA Rummage in Seminole Square, and boutique favorites like Darling, Charlottesville has no shortage of spots to score second-hand goods. But the newest arrival, Uplift Thrift, comes with a unique mission: all of its proceeds support the work of On Our Own.
Since 1990, On Our Own has offered free services to adults struggling with trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Its programs center around a peer support model, meaning “everyone who works here actually is in recovery,” says executive director Erin Tucker.
“Having that lived experience to share with someone else is really important,” she says. “It offers an instant rapport with people.”
While the recovery center gets some local and state government funding, Tucker also continuously applies for grants. She hopes that the revenue from Uplift Thrift, which opened on Black Friday, will make a big difference.
When founder Paul Patrick first opened On Our Own (in partnership with Region Ten), most of the people who came in were experiencing homelessness or struggling with mental illness or addiction, Tucker says. Because there was no place that met their basic needs (such as showering), the center felt obligated to offer those services.
However, when The Haven opened as a day shelter in 2010, “we turned [the center] into a place where only people who were in the contemplative stage of recovery could come,” says Tucker. “We didn’t want anything to distract people from their recovery.”
Today, On Our Own has a variety of structured programs run by trained peer recovery specialists. It also hosts a daily peer support group and connects visitors with personal advocates, who do weekly one-on-one peer support.
According to Tucker, about 30 to 50 people stop by every day, excluding Sundays.
For over two years, Heather (who asked that we not use her last name) has been going to On Our Own for mental health support, which she says has helped her to put her life back together.
“If I’m having a bad day, if I’ve lost sight of my path to wellness, I know I can always go to On Our Own, and I will be accepted for where I am, and encouraged to re-center on my own goals of recovery,” she says. “It feels like family.”
Over the years, On Our Own has forged several long-standing partnerships, including one with the upscale consignment shop Glad Rags. The shop donated all of the clothing and jewelry that it didn’t sell to the center, but because it was mostly vintage items that its visitors didn’t want, Tucker sold them herself and put the money toward the center’s services.
“[One day] I realized it would be better if we had a space for all of these lovely clothes,” Tucker says. “But right about the time we were looking for the place, the state called us with good news, saying that they were going to gift us an amount of money…[and] then the owner of Glad Rags decided to retire, and she gifted us all of her inventory that was left over.”
In addition to shopping at Uplift Thrift, those willing to help can donate gently used items (excluding beds and mattresses) to the shop—or sign up to volunteer or make a donation on On Our Own’s website.