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‘Independent, proud and loved’: The Family Closet 2 provides disabled people a place to work

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — To give people with disabilities an opportunity to earn a paycheck, Annette Parker opened The Family Closet 2 Consignment Shop in 2015.

Parker employs several people with disabilities to greet customers; tag, hang and fold clothes; organize the store; count money; and run the cash register.

“A lot of them do volunteer jobs, but volunteer jobs don’t hand them a paycheck,” Parker said. “When I hand them a paycheck and they get to go to the bank and cash it — no matter what the amount — they are so proud and it makes them just elated.”

Employee Brandon Harmon, who has autism, puts away items that are dropped off to be sold at the consignment shop. Parker gave him a paycheck and his response was a reminder to her why giving people with disabilities a job is important.

“I wrote him a $21.75 check for three hours of work, and I said Brandon, ‘What are you going to do?’” Parker said. “‘I can’t wait. I get to go shopping for my mom.’ So that’s why I do it.”

She said the employees deserve to be paid regardless of whether they have disabilities.

“I want to pay them,” Parker said. “That’s part of making me happy, because they work and I want them to get paid. If they can do the job, they should get paid like anyone else. It may take a little bit more training, a little more time, but they can do it.”

Marissa Watson also works at The Family Closet 2 and hopes to one day be a cashier.

“I like to do everything that Ms. Annette tells me to do,” Watson said. “It makes me feel independent, proud and loved.”

Parker said one of the most valuable things Watson has learned is to know when to ask for help.

“All she has to do is say, ‘Ms. Annette, can you help me do this or where does this go?’ and we’ll show her,” Parker said.

Parker has spent her life working at RHA Health Services as a vocational trainer and as a Special Olympics coach. She recognized how difficult it was to help those with disabilities find a job and said with some training and modifications, people with disabilities are employable.

Parker coached Eve Burke in Special Olympics, and now she works at The Family Closet 2. Burke works at the register, hangs clothes and sometimes opens the store if Parker is running late or on vacation. Burke is learning to explain a punch card that allows returning customers to get a discount.

Burke will also give Parker a boost if she’s feeling down.

“They make my day every day,” Parker said. “One thing about it, I can come here in a bad mood and Eve will say, ‘Mom, you got this,’ and it makes me happy. She can give me more push than I can give her sometimes, and that’s real important.”

The Family Closet 2 Consignment Shop is in West End Plaza, and Parker wants the community to know about the store.

“I just wish we had more business and more people that knew that we were here,” Parker said. “That’s the main thing is getting people to know that we’re here so that I can help them, and that’s real important.”

With more business, Parker could hire more people with disabilities who have asked for jobs. Parker helps her employees apply for other job opportunities as well. One of her previous employees went to work as a dishwasher at Thelma’s Down Home Cooking and then full time at Freshouse.

“I’m hoping to bring in more people,” Parker said. “I got more people asking me all the time, but until I get the funds, I can’t.”

Parker won’t throw away any items that can’t be sold. She donates them to One Church One Child, to flood victims or to veterans.

The Family Closet 2 has clothing for kids, men and women and also carries plus-size options.

The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

It is located next to Bath & Body Works in West End Plaza at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. To contact the store, call 704-310-8749.

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