Staff Spotlight: Juanita Takes Helm Of Thrift Store
If you’re shopping at Central Coast Super Thrift or dropping off a donation, you may notice a new—and very friendly—face. Juanita is the new store lead at the Santa Maria store, and she is loving her new role.
“There’s a lot to learn, but this is where I really wanted to be,” Juanita said. “I want to be in a place like this, not a big corporation that just cares about sales and money. I mean, I know all businesses need to do that, but I’m not out here trying to push sales on people.”
Juanita appreciates that the mission supports local people who are struggling. “The fact that we give back to the community, help out the homeless, clothe them, give out blankets and sleeping bags during the wintertime, that’s what it’s about,” she said, also referencing the outreach meal program, where a food truck parks once a week in the store parking lot for free meals.
“It is so amazing to me,” Juanita said. “There is always a huge line. It was really heartbreaking when I first saw it.”
Juanita grew up a pastor’s kid but turned into a self-described “wild child.” “I grew up in the church, so I always knew where to run to,” she said. “Whenever things got hard or too crazy, I’d always run to (God) to fix it. And he did, every single time.”
Juanita said it wasn’t until 2014 that she made a full commitment to God. “I was just totally tired of, not how I was living my life, because I had toned down a lot after my daughter was born in 2008, but some of my choices. But in 2014, I got out of a manipulative relationship. So I said, ‘OK, God, I obviously (am not good) at picking guys, so I’m just going to read your word. Just focus on you.’”
Juanita started going back to church, and has now been leading women’s nights once a week. She was looking for a job in retail, and when the opportunity at the store came up, she was thrilled. Juanita said she knows that there are other ways to give back, but she is especially partial to the work the mission and its thrift store are doing.
“I know there are other thrift stores that contribute in their own ways, but if you live here, you know that this place is giving back to the community,” Juanita said. “That’s what we’re about. We’re helping the homeless. And some people would say (the homeless) aren’t big contributors to our community, but nevertheless, they are still a part of it. They could be your mom and dad or your uncle or cousin.”
Juanita is taking her time getting to know the men in the mission’s life recovery program who help out at the store. “I didn’t come in and say, ‘We need to do this, do that, change this,” Juanita said. “I took my time and kind of observed. I talked to all the guys individually, asked them a little bit about themselves …
“There were certain things that needed to be done in the store, so I’m getting to know them, asking about their trades and what they were capable of doing. And now I’m in the process of carefully establishing zones. It gives them a sense of ownership, responsibility, accountability. It gives them a purpose.”
When Juanita is asked about how it feels to have a hand in these men’s recoveries, she admits she didn’t know the job entailed that piece.
“But when I figured it out, I was open arms—let’s do this!” Juanita said. “One day they are going to graduate from the program and be out there, and I want to make sure that when they do, that I, and this place, were able to give them the tools necessary to do the next job and do it better than the next guy.”