Emerald High School’s thrift store, the Vintage Viking, benefits its students in several ways.
Need a shirt for an interview? Thrift shop.
A closet that looks stale? Thrift shop.
Dress code violation? Thrift shop.
Learning skills for post-secondary life? Thrift shop.
Students in the Work Readiness program run the store – sorting gifts by color, washing them, sorting by size, hanging them up and then keeping them organized on the shelves.
The thrift store began after Laura Padgett, a work preparation instructor, and Deana Coker, a transition teacher, attended a statewide conference where school businesses were being promoted. The idea of the thrift store emerged, the teachers posted the idea on social media, and very quickly, bags of donations filled Padgett’s classroom.
Students in preparation for work are on a non-degree path and spend time learning skills and then using them in the community. Students work during the day at many locations in Greenwood, such as Publix, Food Lion, Hospice Store, and others.
“So we are putting skills into practice right here at school which are then transferred to the community for construction sites,” said Padgett.
Rahmear Hunt is one of the students who work in the thrift store, but he also took advantage of the offers. He mentioned that he bought a few shirts at the thrift store before a job interview.
“People feel very comfortable coming here and always like this,” Hunt said, adding later that it gave him confidence.
The Vintage Viking has been adopted by the school and the community.
Coker said the first week of opening she looked up and there would be 40 students in the store looking around. When the announcement is made that the store is open, she says, students come in droves.
Students come to pick up trendy clothes, sometimes bringing pieces from their own wardrobes to donate. This plays into the school’s Fair Trade designation, and the thrift store is one of the projects that maintains the designation.
Students will find ball gowns, coats for the cold weather, appropriate clothing when not following the dress code, or basic pieces when they are in an emergency. Students can also find toiletries and hygiene products in the Vintage Viking.
Coker mentioned a time when a teacher emailed him about a student walking to the thrift store for a pair of shoes.
“He said ‘He’s going to look like he doesn’t need it, but there are extenuating circumstances,'” she recalls. To find out, the students’ tutor had kicked him out of the house the day before. He had a pair of slides, but needed marching band tennis shoes.
“So he came over here, got her a nice little pair of tennis shoes and was on his way,” Coker said.
The community at large is also ready to help.
Media scholar Kay LeRoy heard the store needed clothing for the younger ones and reached out to her daughter, who created a logo of a Viking wearing a scarf and top hat.
This image was posted on social media, and LeRoy’s niece in another part of the state saw a message and sent clothes for Thanksgiving.
Every time a post is shared on social media, donations flow in.
The store has received donations from Harris Baptist Church, Duke Energy and Coronaca Baptist Church. The racks were supplied by Greenwood Supply.
Donations are needed, especially winter clothes, and can be dropped off at the school reception.