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New upscale Steppen Style thrift for youth in transition

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 31, 2018 at 9:38 PM

Making the transition from youth to adulthood without the support of family is tough. It’s tough for foster children and and it’s even tougher for a young people with emotional issues tied to a childhood marred by abuse and neglect.

SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services, a nonprofit provider of residential, academic, after-school and therapeutic services for up to 50 local teens growing toward that transition, has identified a need for some intermediary support for its graduates. And that’s where StepenStone’s new SteppenStyle Thrift Store has come in.

Open since October directly across Hanover Road from the Stock Pot shop in Johnson City, SteppenStyle was designed to offer shoppers a different kind of thrift store experience.

The shop is upscale and boutique-like with a staff trained to welcome customers with a smile.

It’s a warm and friendly place, where the he coffee pot is always going and complemented by plates of tempting snacks.

The decor is handsome and the displays are creative. And all the small efforts that go into its ambiance are aimed at raising funds for a singular purpose — transitional housing for SteppenStone boys who graduate out of the program’s 30-bed campus in Limestone and group home residences in Johnson City.

“Everything we have is donated. We have donated items coming in daily. And everything we make above (operating) cost ... goes to SteppenStone,” Manager Jenn Austin said.

The store carries a little of everything — clothing for the entire family, household goods, home decor, kitchenware and furniture.

“About the only thing we don’t carry are large appliances and workout equipment.

“Our sales have been good. Of course we could always use more customers. We’ve had a lot of people who just now learning we are here,” Austin said.

In addition to raising funds for a transitional housing program for SteppenStone graduates, Austin said a big part of the store’s operation is an internship for boys in the program who earn their way into a job in the shop through academic performance and an application and interview process that helps hone their real world job search skills.

Since the store opened, the first SteppenStyle intern has already graduated out of the program, entered college and is off to a good start in his studies.

“He’s making good grades and he’s looking at his options for what he can do. He’s excited about it and we are all excited for him,” Austin said.

Still everyone at SteppenStone wishes they could do more to help assure that young man’s success and the success of others like him.

Dessi Foster, director for development for SteppenStone, said all of SteppenStyle’s proceeds are being set aside for transitional housing to serve that end and she encouraged everyone to come and visit the shop.

“It truly is a different kind of thrift store,” she said. “It’s friendly. It’s upscale. They’ll be greeted by bright, smiling faces. It’s decorated beautifully. The coffee is always going.”

And it’s all for a much-needed program — boys with emotional or behavioral issues that are often related to the difficulties they have come through.

More information about the thrift store may be obtained by calling SteppenStyle at 423-257-7500 or by visiting the store at 3212 Hanover Rd,. Suite 2. More information about the store and about the SteppenStone program is also available online at www.steppenstoneyouth.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SteppenStyleThrift.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538 or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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