By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

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MADRAS — Bransen Stanfield held a piece of notebook paper in one hand and sorted through the rack of women’s T-shirts with the other. On the paper was a list of colors — green, red, purple and so on — and anything with a tag in one of the listed colors was pulled to be marked down to $1.

“It’s hard work,” said Stanfield, 19, of Madras, who works three days a week at the Heart of Oregon Corps Thrift Store. “My least favorite (part) is going through the dirty clothes.”

The store, on SE Fifth Street in downtown Madras, is staffed by local students, and reopened last week after a brief closure. Students sort the donations — all clothes and linens are washed — and tag the items, bring them out to the floor and keep the aisles in order. There are also books and board games, VHS tapes and cassettes, housewares and kitchen supplies. Only the most experienced students get to work the cash register.

“The goal is to have all students run the whole program and be signed off on each step,” said Linda Graham, of Culver, the store’s new manager. That way if they apply to work at a store after high school they have all the experience needed.

Most of the students who work at the store come from the Madras High transition program for students with disabilities ages 16 to 21. They have gone as far as they can academically, said teacher Wendy Dove, but they still need to learn real-world skills like cooking for themselves and managing money.

“It’s all those things that are important to real life,” she said, but taught in a safe environment like the thrift store.

The student-employees can get school credit and a small stipend — $15 to $75 a week, depending on experience and hours worked — as incentive. They work up to 25 hours a week.

For most, this is their first job. Graham said she wants to teach them to be punctual and professional, to treat the customer with respect and to come to work prepared.

“Some kids are very shy and it’s a new experience for them, talking to people they don’t know,” she said. Can they be fired? “Technically, yes,” she said, but the goal is education first.

On a recent afternoon Marti Glover, 17, of Madras, was on the register. She’s worked at the store for almost a year and said her favorite part is talking to customers. She likes the chatty ones.

An older man buying a blanket told her it was for his cats — he has seven cats at home and they need a cozy place to sleep. She told him she wished she could have so many cats.

The thrift store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will host a grand reopening with the Madras Chamber of Commerce at 5 p.m. Nov. 19.

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,