OUI thrift store offers job training for adults with disabilities

Customer Debi Middlekoop searches for a gift for her daughter’s new home Thursday at OUI thrift shop, a nonprofit organization, in Moscow.

CHLOE GRUNDMEIER, Evergreen reporter

Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (OUI), a developmental disability agency based out of Lewiston whose vision is “empowering people with disabilities to meet the challenges of life,” recently opened a thrift shop in Moscow to do just this.

The original idea of the thrift shop was born from the annual yard sale that OUI has held for years. In 2011, the yard sale expanded to a thrift store open year-round in Lewiston. After slowly building toward success, they brought a store to Moscow.

CEO and President of OUI, Hannah Liedke said one of the main goals with these thrift stores is to employ adults with disabilities.

Leidke and other faculty of OUI wanted to not only fundraise for the programs, but utilize the shops as a teaching tool as well, she said.

“Retail is a great way to teach multiple skills,” Liedke said. “There are so many barriers that adults with disabilities face, whether they be of their own or put upon them. OUI and the thrift stores are trying to get rid of these barriers.”

KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen
OUI Assistant Manager Dan Boyd discusses his calling to OUI.

Dan Boyd, assistant manager of the Moscow OUI thrift store, wanted to work with OUI because of his lifetime involvement with people with disabilities. He has worked with adults with disabilities since 1982, he said.

“Two of my children have handicaps,” Boyd said, “so it’s just the path of life fate has directed me to.”

OUI is a non-profit, so all the proceeds made at the thrift stores go toward funding OUI programs like vocational training, personal care and residential services, Boyd said. These opportunities allow parents of disabled children to work, have their children attend school and avoid institutionalizing adults, he said.

“The supports for [adults with disabilities] and for the people supporting those [adults] grew until the recession hit,” Boyd said. “Funding has gone down since then, so the organizations need something like this to stay alive.”

Ammie Falen, manager of the Moscow OUI thrift shop, has worked with OUI on and off for almost 20 years, and has been involved with adults with disabilities her entire adult life. Three of them live with her at her house, she said.

Many of the key players of the OUI programs and thrift shops have been involved with adults with disabilities for large portions of their lives, so they all believe wholeheartedly in OUI’s message, Falen said.

While much of the current inventory is from the Lewiston store, OUI is accepting donations to personalize the Moscow store. Currently, the store has a little bit of everything, including inexpensive clothes, jewelry and furniture and woodwork made by OUI participants.

After a few weeks setting up the shop, the grand opening party is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Customers can spin a wheel of fortune to get further discounts on the 15 percent off that will already be offered. At 5 p.m., the Moscow Chamber of Commerce will perform a ribbon cutting ceremony to fully welcome the OUI thrift shop to Moscow.

“I know that people in the community wanted to help, but they just [didn’t] know how,” Liedke said. “This opportunity to volunteer at the stores or donate or just shop here is a great way to help that so many people can get on board with.”