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RaY Level Up! Gift & Thrift

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You don’t have to look far for the merits of Resource Assistance for Youth, Inc. (RaY)’s social enterprise, a retail location specializing in second-hand goods – and providing work experience to street-entrenched youth.

The shoprunner, Casey Wall, is a former youth participant of RaY’s, who helped operate the thrift shop’s former location in West Broadway, before helping to open the RaY Level Up! Gift & Thrift downtown.

When RaY looked at relocating its social enterprise, it brought an opportunity for reinvention.

Dealing primarily in second-hand furniture and houseware sales in its past iteration, the new, prominent storefront on Graham Avenue offered more swank than space.

“Knowing that we were coming into this space, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to fit as much,” says Casey Wall, retail coordinator for RaY Level Up! Gift & Thrift.

“I thought that incorporating the gifts idea into the thrift store seemed like the best way to go.”

Extending a consignment opportunity to local artists, the do-gooding store now also displays and supports local artist’s work, including pottery, bath and beauty products, stationery, bags, jewelry and prints, to name a few.

“We still have more people coming in with applications,” says Wall, of the ongoing accumulation of artist participants.

As a social enterprise and extension of its agency, RaY Level Up! Gift & Thrift’s proceeds go right back into the Level Up! program – enabling participants in RaY’s job readiness program to gain real-world work experience, implement practical skills they’ve picked up in training, and embark on their future job search with some confidence and experience on their resumes.

The program encompasses nine weeks of in-class training, which helps equip participants with life and employability skills to be an asset on the job.

Then, they are placed into work environments like RaY Level Up! Gift & Thrift to put their skills into practice.

“They get to learn all the ins and outs for running this type of store – organizing the thrift items, doing inventory count, learning how to use the register – and even how to close up the shop,” says Wall.

“They get the skills from here, and move on to other opportunities. I get a sense that they really appreciate and are grateful that they get to join in on this project. When they’re job searching, having this on their resume really helps.”

For more shop information, including what kind of donations are accepted and details on artist consignment, please visit www.rayinc.ca/gift-and-thrift.