“Brookstyle is a solution to a problem,” said Jessica Mooney, Brookside Intensive Treatment Unit’s Assistant Program Director.
About two years ago, Mooney and two activity assistants were facing a tricky situation. Some of the students at Hillcrest’s Brookside campus had funding to go shopping for new clothes. Others did not and understandably were jealous when their peers updated their wardrobes. This clothing funding typically comes from the state, but different states have their own policies. And some states don’t provide any.
Mooney and her team agreed with the students that it was an unfair situation and racked their brains for a solution. Then it came to them. They could open a thrift shop right on the Brookside campus.
Campus Thrift Shop
“The heavens sang. The skies opened up. This light shone down,” she said. And so Brookstyle was born and took on a life of its own.
The clothes in the store come from donations from staff members, as well as from a local retail store. “[They have] to donate their returns and ‘damaged’ items. Sometimes it’s a missing button, sometimes it’s not even that.” For the students this means there are plenty of clothes to choose from, many of them are nearly brand new. Initially, Mooney thought the team would have to fill out the clothing selection by purchasing from the local thrift shop, but with all the donations coming in, they haven’t had to yet.
Students purchase the clothing with vouchers that they can earn in a variety of ways. Cleaning their rooms is one way. Another is prizes for activities on campus. If a student is caught doing something cool, unique, or helpful, that could earn them a voucher or two.
T-shirts tend to be one or two vouchers. Heavier items like pants and winter jackets are often five. And Brookstyle has a lenient return policy. If the student takes their haul back to their dorm and realize something doesn’t fit, they can take it back for a refund.
Beyond being a solution to a problem, Brookstyle presented another opportunity. It provides campus jobs for students where they learn vocational skills. The kids have truly taken ownership of Brookstyle.
“The students created a spreadsheet where they track how many vouchers each student has, what they spent, and how many [vouchers] they have left. Just like you would with your bank ledger,” Mooney said. “So the students track all that. The students inventory stuff. They sort it on the shelves. They price it. They do sales and promotions. Oh my god, it is the cutest thing ever. I’m not even kidding. There was this Buy One, Get One Half Off sale because there was a change in season and they wanted to put all of the winter stuff out and get rid of the fall stuff.”
As Mooney puts it, the students are getting real retail experience without the public factor or dollar exchange. It’s a unique experience that the students really benefit from.
What started as an idea cooked up in brainstorming session has turned into a project that serves a variety of needs at Brookside. Not only have the students been pleased with their shopping options, but the kids who “work” in the store are building skills for their futures after Hillcrest.
Want to donate? Brookstyle accepts both feminine and masculine clothes to meet the needs of its diverse group of students. Please call our main office at 413-528-0535 or email Michael Canterbury at email@example.com for more information on where to drop off the clothes.
Don’t forget to read our interview with Kate McAvoy, the clinical assistant for Hillcrest’s ASD Residential Program.