BILLINGS — Alpine Village Shopping Center in Billings has a new tenant. Residential Support Services is opening a new thrift store May 3, staffed by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Residential Support Services supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible in the community," says RSS Executive Director Calvin Calton.
RSS is already gearing up, making homemade items to sell such as key chains, magnetic jewelry, tie-dyed socks and baby clothing. Calton is asking Montanans for donations to help stock the shelves prior to opening day, and beyond.
"Bring us your used stuff. We will put it to good use," says Calton. "We need dressers, collectibles, antiques, household goods, dishes, camping gear, sleeping bags, winter boots and coats. We're limiting what we take for clothing."
Calton says 100% of the money that comes in goes directly back to supporting its residents.
RSS is a nonprofit organization that's been in the Billings community for nearly 50 years providing day programs for adults, but this thrift store is a new addition. Calton sees it as an opportunity for 80-some residents from its 13 group homes to pick up new workforce skills.
"They're very excited. They can't wait to have a job," says Calton.
"I do key chains. I'm making a key chain right now. I'm working on a key chain like this," says RSS Group Home Resident Kristina Slovarp.
"We have people of all different functioning levels from total care, non-verbal to people who just need a little support to make it in the greater community," says Calton. "Sometimes folks who've been out of the workforce or who have developmental or intellectual disabilities, they need to learn how to work so we're a good proving ground. We're going to make partnerships with other providers. They can bring people in here. They'll staff them, they'll bill them and they'll help train them to be good employees, and its a safe place to fail. If they drop a stack of dishes here, we'll clean it up. No harm, no foul."
Calton's vision is that this is the training ground before residents take a job in the fast-food or grocery industries.
"I don't think the community is aware of how much our people have to contribute," says Calton.
If you'd like to contribute to the success of this program, remember to hit the garage sales and/or donate items from your spring cleaning. Then, starting May 3, you can shop at the thrift store at 1120 16th St. W. in Billings.
"I love it here. I love interacting with people very much," says Slovarp.