by Heidi Riley
Misti Myers is the Manager of the Lennox Island Thrift Store, called The Shoppe/ Malsano’Kuo’m. The store, which opened in December 2019, is a great example of a social enterprise which exists for the greater good of the community.
The Shoppe is located in the heart of the community of Lennox Island, which is the arm of Lennox Island Development Corp. in partnership with Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI Skills Partnership Fund.
Misti has a long history of helping her community. For a few years, she ran an online support group called Lennox Island Families Helping Families. Someone who needed groceries or gas or other essentials could message her and she would anonymously post it to Facebook. The community would chip in and donate what was needed, and Misti would pick up the donations and deliver them to the family in need.
As more and more donations came in, Misti ran out of space in her house to store them all. She partnered with Chief Darlene Bernard, who was running a program called Helping Hearts, which raises funds to support individuals in need. Chief Bernard secured funding to allow the thrift shop to get started in a former daycare centre building. Misti was then mentored Chief Bernard, Mike Randall, and Curtis Reilly, and Misti now plays an active role in continuing to mentor new staff and summer students.
The Shoppe Malsano’Kuo’m offers affordable secondhand household items and clothing, as well as new brand-name items at deeply discounted prices. “We welcome everyone from all communities to shop and donate,” says Misti.
“As I was raising my children, we didn’t have a lot of money, and it was embarrassing to reach out and ask for help. It made me feel like I wasn’t doing my job as a parent if I couldn’t afford basic essential items. I didn’t know who to reach out to. I want to be able to support families and parents in similar situations.
“It is important to me to give back to my community and surrounding communities. This is our fourth year for our Warming up the Community event where we gather donations of winter clothing, bedding, and groceries. It has been unbelievable what people will do for someone, even if they don’t know them.” At this year’s event, 62 families came in to get free winter wear and bedding.
All donations are stored for 72 hours. Laundry is put through the washer and dryer, and all household items are sanitized before being put out for sale. In addition, every surface in the store is sanitized every day. “We pride ourselves on the overall cleanliness of the store, and we work extremely hard to ensure the store is a safe and clean place to shop for our customers, staff and donators.
“We are undergoing some construction right now, which was slowed down because of COVID-19, and eventually we plan to operate a soup kitchen and a food bank from this location as well. I’m very excited to be part of this process. I once read a quote which stuck with me: ‘No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone.’ That’s how I try to life my life.”
Employees and volunteers
In addition to Misti, The Shoppe has two employees. “We employ people who may need to learn a few more skills for future positions,” says Misti. “Or maybe they are on social assistance and want to dip their toes back into the working scene. There could be a number of reasons, but it comes down to supporting individuals on their road to employment, which is a great way to continue to support people in our community.
“We had part-time summer students this year and they were great. They got more experience to put on their resumé and they also got to feel what it is like to help customers.
“We also have many volunteers, and some of them have no employment experience. It is hard to find a job without work experience, so volunteering gives them something to put on their resumé and offers them valuable employability skills.”
Before she opened the thrift store, Misti took the Workplace Essential Skills program (WES) facilitated by Workplace Learning PEI. The Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI is the project sponsor and Workplace Learning PEI delivers WES Lennox on their behalf.
“I learned to use basic computer programs, and also earned my WHIMS, First Aid, and World Host certifications, all of which employers like to see on a resumé.
“The online communication skills and business skills programs were very helpful, and I don’t know if I would have been able to run the shop without the skills I learned through WES. WES gave me the structure and routine I needed to jump back into the workforce.”
Art helps sustain a livelihood
Misti is also an Indigenous artisan, doing traditional beadwork, birchbark and porcupine quill art. “I relied on my income from selling my artwork, and through the WES program I learned how to calculate my costs and my time to see how much I am really making. It made a huge difference.
“For years, I sold my products online, and at pow wows and different cultural events. I no longer have the time to do this. Now I take orders, which at times are very large and time consuming. This past year, I was able to hire other people to do some of the work. The work paid my bills for years, and now I am in a position to share my work with other artisans and inspire them to see what they can create. Creating Indigenous art is a passion of mine, and watching that same passion come alive in someone else is very rewarding.”
For more about The Shoppe/Malsano’Kuo’m visit https://m.facebook.com/lifnshoppe
For more about Workplace Learning PEI, visit www.workplacelearningpei.com
Funded by the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism & Culture through the Canada-PEI Labour Market Agreement.