PITTSBORO — Following a year marked by challenges from COVID-19, funding and road construction, Second Bloom of Chatham is set to start the new year strong with its new thrift store grand opening …
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PITTSBORO — Following a year marked by challenges from COVID-19, funding and road construction, Second Bloom of Chatham is set to start the new year strong with its new thrift store grand opening at Chatham Commons Shopping Center.
The old location, which was near the Pittsboro roundabout and closed Dec. 19 due to traffic circle construction, opened in December 2018 to financially support Second Bloom’s mission to identify and raise awareness of the needs of those affected by domestic and sexual violence in Chatham. The new location at 630 East St., set to open next Tuesday, will do the same.
“We opened the store two years ago, right after the other agency closed somewhat abruptly and closed down their store,” said Second Bloom co-chairperson Jo Sanders, referencing the closure of Chatham’s Family Violence Rape Crisis Center (FVRC), and its thrift store, in October 2018. “And so we did not want to see that mission to support services for victims and survivors die. Thrift stores are a standard source of income for many programs like ours across the state … the store remained a strong source of income for them until it was like the only income.”
The current Second Bloom team incorporated the organization in 2017, anticipating the FVRC’s closure, and opened its Second Bloom Thrift Store in 2018. Since then, it hired program director Tamsey Hill, created a 24/7 helpline in collaboration with Chatham County Family Violence Prevention Services and opened a walk-in office space in Pittsboro — all with the goal of providing support and resources for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Chatham.
As was the case for many organizations, the coronavirus pandemic caused Second Bloom to quickly adapt in order to continue safely providing services. After successfully hosting two helpline trainings in 2019, Second B loom hosted its third in September, with virtual and socially distanced offerings. And while they’ve had to put their support group with free childcare on hold, they’ve continued to offer appointments at their office space, located at 14 Small St.
“We felt it was important to keep that open,” Sanders said. “And of course, our helpline is alive and well — that’s probably what our key first goal was, to establish that service.”
July 1 marked the first full year of existence for that domestic violence and abuse 24-hour hotline, which has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic. Following the cyber incident that temporarily left the county without email, phone and network service, the hotline’s temporary number is 919-545-0055.
Because of COVID-19, the Second Bloom Thrift Store was closed from March to June. During that time, the nonprofit secured funding to remain open and become a North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence accredited agency, as well as to hire a bilingual support staff person early this year.
Board member Delfino Benitez said this type of access is critical in the group’s ability to serve the community.
“As a male and as a Hispanic, I’m also able to get that perspective of helping the families that are Hispanic or that speak Spanish that normally we wouldn’t be able to reach out to because of the availability of a staff member or volunteer that speaks Spanish,” he said. “It’s too easy to overlook that males too can face domestic violence or sexual abuse, and it can go either unnoticed or can be very hard or embarrassing to talk to especially to another guy … That’s the kind of perspective that I bring, and that’s what pulls me into it.”
Benitez previously volunteered with Pathways to Change, a nonprofit that serves Orange, Durham and Chatham counties through educational programs designed to reduce recidivism and produce behavioral change. The experience of seeing men relearn behavior they’d often experienced at a younger age was mind-opening, he said.
“I knew that I wanted to continue to help families and individuals who kind of seem stuck in the crisis and can’t get out of the cycle,” he said, adding that Second Bloom gives him this opportunity.
As Second Bloom continues to expand, Sanders said it will be looking to hire an executive director to take over some of the tasks volunteer board members are currently performing, as well as applying for as many local and state grants as possible — something she said is “key to allowing us to sustain and grow our services.” Co-chairperson Cindy Perry added that the community’s support and generosity has also helped, particularly with the new store, which had some minor reopening delays due to the flooring process.
“We have had contributions of materials, completely new LED lighting throughout the store, folks stopping by to hand a check and/or encouragement, people stepping up to help unload a trailer or truck,” Perry said. “Every day there has been a new gift from this amazing community.”
In addition to the new store, Sanders and Benitez each also emphasized the organization’s desire to establish a shelter in Chatham, something Sanders said the county hasn’t had in four years.
“The shelters in all of the surrounding counties are full with their own residents, they will take referrals if they have a space, but they rarely have a space open,” she said. “And that would require Chatham residents to uproot themselves, and their children from schools and jobs and support systems — that’s not ideal at all. So we fully intend and expect one of these years, the sooner the better, to be able to open and operate a shelter.”
Second Bloom hopes the new store — open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Sunday of each month from 12 to 4 p.m. — will be a large part of its ability to provide such important services in Chatham.
“Our store has been very successful,” Sanders said. “So we’re hoping with a better presence, a better location and already having a loyal following, that we’ll be able to make up the difference in sales (from being closed).”
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.