Thrift shop serves community

Nick Sotolongo
Staff Writer

For the past decade, Club Nova in Carrboro has provided individuals living with mental illness the opportunity to better their lives. Not only does the club address the needs of the mentally ill citizens of Orange County, they also manage to carry out their service in a thrifty way.

The in-house Club Nova Thrift Shop, located at 103 W. Main Street, offers an impressive array of discount goods to members and the larger Carrboro community.

The thrift shop is more than a great place to grab vintage clothing. Partly staffed with Club Nova members, the shop also provides a positive niche in the community for people who might otherwise struggle to make connections.

Camellia Norton is a UNC-CH graduate and has worked at the shop since 2002 and is its official coordinator. Norton notes how the shop makes a positive impact in Club Nova members’ lives on Thrift Stories, a Web site created by a volunteer about the Club Nova Thrift Shop.

“Just having a common goal of making this shop a success is really exciting,” Norton said. “It seems to be really good on a daily basis because they see their work in front of them and know they have accomplished something.”

Patrons enter through the front door of the Club Nova Thrift Shop. The shop prides itself on the atmosphere it creates.
Commons Photos by Nick Sotolongo

The shop also stands out for its welcoming atmosphere. Norton and other staff members say they make it a point to greet customers as they walk in. Norton said they look people in the eye and want to establish a personal connection, echoing the club’s goals of establishing meaningful relationships and acceptance.

Norton said, “I introduce myself to people and the members do, and we’re just super friendly and helpful to everyone who comes in.”

Norton also understands how the shop can help integrate Club Nova into the greater Carrboro community.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things, creating that atmosphere. If you walk in you’re going to be greeted and welcomed,” Norton said. “We’re not just here to make profit for the clubhouse, but to really be part of the community.”

The reach of Club Nova extends beyond the shop, however, to assist members living with mental illness in their day-to-day activities. The club attempts to reverse the typical feelings of isolation that accompany mental illness by giving members a place to come six days a week. Access to housing, job opportunities, affordable meals, and a great circle of friends are also included in Club Nova’s arsenal in combating mental illness.

The club contains an administrative unit where staff and members deal with financial and clerical work. A culinary unit provides cheap meals and other tasks for members to take on. Several groups help find employment opportunities for the members as well.

Club Nova welcomes volunteers and has a wide variety of work available.

Suzie Aragona of the Program and Communications unit, said on Thrift Stories, “In the house there are a lot of opportunities available, sometimes it’s just making sure that all the members have something to do.” Aragona said Club Nova faces the challenge of providing each member with the individual attention they need.

Operating as a non-profit organization, the group also welcomes donations. The club’s director, Karen Dunn, is confronted with numerous state mental health policies which drain her funds.

“The whole mental health system is over regulated,” Dunn said on Thrift Stories. “The paper trail is just seemingly endless. The funding in mental health is not good, and trying to meet all the regulations and statutes costs a lot of money.”

Dunn added that one of the main goals of the organization is to create the neighborly feeling of community for the club’s members.

Dunn said, “The reason it feels necessary to build this community here is so that the people who come here have a sense of community that we all need, a home base from which they can reestablish the lives they want for themselves.”

To contact Club Nova in order to make a donation or inquire about volunteering go to their Web site.

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