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January 4, 2005 > Hope Station - More Than Just a Thrift Store

Hope Station - More Than Just a Thrift Store

by Veronica Velasquez

At the Hope Station thrift store on Fremont Boulevard, many treasures can be found at a great bargain. There is a plethora of kitchen essentials, a variety of good furniture, vintage clothing, and an eclectic library and record collection. The store front window always has a fascinating array of antiques. It's a great place to pick up gently used items for next to nothing.

"I took my grandsons shopping here right before Christmas," said Joe Campbell. "They bought up all the glass decorations."

It sounds like the typical thrifty shopper has made good, except for one thing; Joe Campbell is the CEO of a local company. One would wonder what a company president would be doing in a second hand store.

"I'm an avid thrift store shopper, myself," Campbell confessed. "I can wander around in the store for hours, and I always end up bringing something home. I go into all of them, and I pick up little things. I especially like to get books. There's something for everyone in the thrift stores."

The Hope Station thrift store is not just a retail venture; it is part of a community service organization known as Hope Services that is dedicated to serving the needs of developmentally disabled people of all ages. The proceeds from the store go toward funding various outreach programs that Hope Services provides. Campbell has been the CEO of the company since 1987.

Campbell feels that the community has been very supportive by providing most of the items sold in the store. He said that many people shop at the store because of the excellent array of product, new and almost new at affordable prices. Shopping at Hope Station is a way to benefit people with disabilities. Many people know someone who has needed such support services and that awareness brings in the money needed to run the organization.

Campbell is a dedicated advocate for the developmentally disabled. Before becoming president of Hope, he earned his master's degree in rehabilitation at the University of San Francisco, and a doctorate at Boston University in the mental health field. Campbell then worked in what he calls the "human field" in Ireland before returning to the Bay Area to head Hope Services. He has spent his life working with human services in various geographical areas but his heart was always in California, so he settled in the Bay Area.

He was interested in the Hope organization because it connected with him and he was impressed by its long history and mission. He became president of the company, and has thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the many challenges with fundraising that have presented themselves in this economic climate, he said.

Hope Services was started in 1952, by the parents of developmentally disabled children. Developmental disability is recognized in the following categories: mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and other neurological issues.

Most commonly, the onset of these types of disabilities occurs during pregnancy, birth, or during the first 21 years of life. Therapy can help the disability as it affects the individual across an entire life spectrum. For those with moderate disabilities, speech therapy and occupational therapy can help the person have fewer issues later on, but for those with severe disabilities, there more support may be needed.

This is where Hope Services steps in. The nonprofit agency serves people with disabilities in the greater Bay Area. Hope's first program opened as a preschool for affected children and was administered for by volunteers of the San Jose Junior Women's Club. By 1957, however, Hope's focus changed as the needs of the community changed, and Hope began providing services for adults with developmental disabilities.

"If an individual does not have success in employment, Hope Services also has commercial operations, such as a contract for document destruction with such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service," Campbell said. "But we do not just run a bunch of programs; we provide support that focuses on the individual. We want them to be able to enjoy life in the community. The goal of the program is not to isolate the person, as it was in the past, when they were sent to work at a certain center. Whatever agencies there are that train the general public for employment, we look into, to see if those with special needs can be accommodated."

Instructors are brought into the environment, to further help integrate clients into the general work force. Hope Services encourages employment, for the feeling of self-worth that it can bring, as well as for the interaction with the community that work affords.

Hope has other services besides the work programs. There are social activities, such as going to the YMCA, to the library, and shopping trips, for whatever interests the clients have. Some need physical help in almost everything. One third of their clients are severely disabled, one third have moderate physical or neurological developmental problems, and the remaining third are more able to obtain some independence; they mostly need services for housing and job training. A small percentage of them do transition out of Hope Services and move right on into independent job positions.

There is also housing support, advocacy for tenants with disabilities, and programs for long-term assisted living and supportive living. When they grow older, there are senior services. They can also help those who have an interest in starting up a business, which some have done.

Recently, the federal government has given lengthier trial periods, and longer ramp up periods for disabled individuals in work programs. That is, the time it takes to train the individual for the job has been increased. The client does not lose any benefits during these specified times.

They are paid the same wages as any employee, unless they are in an early testing period, or on a Hope payment system. The United States Geological Survey wages are federally regulated. The Department of Labor works with the disability services to monitor how wages are paid.

"For example, if a person's productivity level is below that of the company's normal expectation, it goes by the average production rate of the individual, and they are paid according to that. Also, some can only work one or two hours a day. Those with moderate disabilities work 30 to 40 hours a week," said Campbell. "The Department of Labor is good as a measure for keeping people from getting ripped off, and it also establishes guidelines for those whose production levels are too low for them to be otherwise employed."

Hope contracts with various companies and place a certain amount of employees for a trial basis. Some of the companies working together with Hope are Safeway, Albertson's, Home Depot, Tyco, McCormick/Schilling, and Hewlett Packard.

A disability can be crippling in other ways. It is difficult for some individuals to interact, such as when they are prone to irritability and frustration, or have a fear of invasion of their personal space.

Many receive SSI, and some are able to eventually become independent, but adequate health coverage is still an issue. "Often times, those with disabilities don't get good service where they go, because of communication problems. Behavioral health issues and psychological issues end up being misdiagnosed a lot, because there is a tendency to approach the problem with treatment, any treatment, for the sake of addressing it," he said.

A creative approach to finding necessary support can be challenging. Hope's typical client has moderate to severe disabilities with limited work capabilities. They will go into entry level to moderate skill level jobs, and most will stay in that line of work. Many have gone on to work for 10 or 20 years.

Hope serves 2,500 people a day, from Monterey to Menlo Park, and parts of Fremont and Hollister. More than half of them are long term clients across several generations. They have provided support to some of their first preschool clients from the 50s.

Many parents of disabled people handle much of their support needs, even into adulthood, but as the person gets older, they have concerns about who will help them in their old age. Hope commits to their clients for life. Some of their staff has been there for over 20 years.

There are currently 524 employees on staff at Hope Services. There are also 45 to 50 volunteers, but most are part of the fundraising team.

The largest event, the vintage automobile show and garden party, yielded $380 million after expenses. They host fashion shows, luncheons, and theater events. There are programs for leadership and there are the annual campaign mailings. The leadership group focuses on certain community members who are in a position to support Hope.

Some of the funding is from federal programs. The tax money comes from the state, the counties, and from the school districts. In addition, the community colleges also provide teacher in-kind support to Hope Services. Their total yearly budget is $30 million. $20 million of the funding comes from taxpayers with $1.5 million brought in by their fundraising wing. Members of the foundation write grants and organize the community events.

There are also various community employment arrangements, such as with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, where clients run the mailroom. At the Monterey Naval Post Graduate School campus, they have a staff of 50 who provide over a million square feet of janitorial service. There are also contracts with the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies for shredding and document destruction purposes. Many of their clients have lifetime jobs.

Most of the organization's money goes out to pay the companies involved and to maintain our facilities. "This is why we decided on a thrift store to bring in revenue. We chose Fremont for its large population, and for the fact that Fremont doesn't have a lot of Goodwill stores. We didn't want to be in direct competition with the Goodwill store near our office in Santa Clara, because they are the experts in this area of community service," said Campbell.

All of their store sales reports are available to the public, except, of course, for the private aspect of their clients' lives. The store makes $50 thousand a year. The rent is very high, however, and the cost of general renovation, truck operations and wages takes up most of the proceeds. It usually takes two years for a business to start showing a profit. The Hope Station store opened two years ago last September, so now the profits are starting to cover for the overhead. Hope also sells some used items to other thrift stores.

Hope Station accepts just about every kind of donation, except for appliances, simply because they don't have the capacity to test them.

They also accept used vehicles at all of their locations. They sell them for anywhere from $500 to $2,000, and most of the people who buy them are car dealers, but anyone can buy them. They also sell them on craigslist.org. The cars are sold at the Santa Clara office, and they are available for sale all year long.

Many of their clients also receive other services, especially from the San Andreas Regional Center. In California, all support services are supervised by the Department of Health. The state provides some funding, and they choose the agencies to receive money for services, but clients also choose certain facilities for themselves. The school districts seek out Hope Services, as well. The Fremont Unified School District, which is part of the Cupertino area, and the high school there works closely with Hope.

There are also different medical centers, but Fremont only has employment services. The Department of Rehabilitation provides employment counselors and job coaches for people with less severe disabilities.

"There's a sense of reward, a feeling of accomplishment that comes with employment, and that's our job; to help them experience that with dignity," Campbell said." Being able to contribute to society, and also being able to fit into it, there is a balance of all this."

 
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