Autism Jersey has opened a bigger and better charity boutique, not only offering more space for fashion finds and work experience for islanders on the spectrum, but a special listening ear for families.
The charity's new shop at 13 Parade, which is five times bigger than its former Bath Street premises, officially launched yesterday.
But the team has promised it will be more than just a store: a community bringing together visitors, volunteers, and adults and children with autism and their families.
Pictured: The new boutique is based at 13 Parade.
Shop managers and parents of autistic children Catherine Tubb and Karen Gallichan described the new premises as "amazing", explaining that it gives the team more space not only in the shop but also in the stockroom, helping everything be more organised.
“It’s really important to be organised for our clients,” Karen said. “It can often be overwhelming. Now we have a stock room, a preparation room, plenty of room to stock, it’s all organised.”
“The other shop served us well, but we had simply outgrown it,” she added. “We are grateful to have been given this opportunity.”
Based on a “busy end of town”, as Catherine described it, the new shop also comes with a loading bay right outside the door, making it easier for islanders to drop off their donations.
As in the past, the shop will accept all donations except electrical goods and furniture. Anything that cannot be sold will be recycled through Acorn or the Salvation Army.
Pictured: The previous shop was based on Bath Street.
The new boutique also boasts a private office where Karen and Catherine will be happy to speak to islanders and especially parents of children on the spectrum looking for a listening ear.
This has been many years in the making, as the team dreamed of offering “a safe and caring space for both people on the spectrum and their family members” as many as six years ago when they opened the first boutique on Bath Street.
“In addition to running the shop and giving meaningful work experience to people on the spectrum, we are both parents of autistic children,” Catherine said.
“We offer support to parents in a non-clinical setting, in a parent-to-parent way.”
Previously, the team had no private space to speak to people in a confidential way. Now the boutique will act as an “approachable, informative front door” for Autism Jersey.
Pictured: The new shop is "better, brighter, bigger".
“They can come and have a chat with us,” Karen explained. “The other day a lady came in and her child had been diagnosed just the day before. It was really rewarding to be able to sit with her, offer a cup of tea and just give her the space to talk about how she felt.
“My son is 20 now, but the experience can be isolating. We are a listening ear, people who understand what it’s like.”
“Parents can just come off the street and talk to somebody who gets it,” Catherine said.
The new shop will also give more opportunities to the charity’s clients to gain work experience.
“We have found work experience to be valuable for those on the pathway to employment but more so probably for the friendships that are made, the constructive and worthwhile activities undertaken and of course the routine that regular shifts provide,” the team explained.
Pictured: The shop offers a selection of clothes, shoes, accessories as well as toys and Christmas ornaments.
With bigger premises, the team is keen to recruit more volunteers even if for just an hour a week. Training is provided and the only requirement the team has is for people to have “a non-judgmental attitude.”
“We appreciate the time our volunteers give but we also think being involved with a charity that has real meaning to you brings its own rewards,” Catherine and Karen said.
“This is how we first became involved with the charity, as parents simply needing someone to talk to and then volunteering to help out. Neither of us have ever regretted the many hours of volunteering undertaken and in reality, it felt like we got lots more out than we put in!”
The pair also reminded islanders that they can support the charity by making donations, bringing unwanted items to be sold in the shop and, of course, shopping in the charity store. “Just come and see us!” Catherine said.
The Autism Jersey Boutique will be open from 10:30 to 17:30 Wednesday to Friday, and from 10:00 to 15:00 on Saturdays.
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