SUMITON — There are deals aplenty at the City of Lights Dream Center's new thrift store in downtown Sumiton, but a bargain isn't the only reason to shop there.
The store's motto is "Shopping to Save Lives." The proceeds support the Center, which operates an inpatient substance abuse recovery program for women out of the former home of T.S. Boyd school in Dora.
"Many of these women are coming in without an opportunity to help pay for the program. This is a way to fund the program and offset some of those expenses," said City of Lights founder Jamie Massey.
The thrift store, which opened in September, also gives the women an opportunity for employment while they focus on getting their lives back on track.
With the exception of store manager Christina Alexander and assistant manager China Crumpton, all of the employees are women who are going through the recovery program.
"This is something that they can add to their resume when they finish the program and go out to find a job. It's also helping them learn and grow," said Alexander, who worked for programs serving troubled teens and victims of sex trafficking in Georgia before moving to Walker County to manage the thrift store.
Massey said Alexander was chosen specifically because of her ability to serve as a mentor for the women.
"This is not a business as much as it is a ministry and an opportunity to help these women. I knew Christina would invest in them, love on them and listen to them," Massey said.
Crumpton graduated from a similar program in Birmingham but is now living with her two-month-old daughter in sober living transitional housing provided by the Center.
Since joining the Center's new sober living program in November, she got her first job (in addition to her work at the thrift store) and a driver's license and started studying to get her GED through Bevill State Community College.
Her daughter attends a daycare during the day and is cared for by the women in the Center when she has to work an evening shift.
"She has absolutely proved herself. Her integrity is very apparent. Also, the girls look up to her, so having her strong leadership here is very important when she is managing the store and I'm not here," Alexander said.
While living in transitional housing and working two jobs, Crumpton is saving up so that she can afford housing for her and her daughter once she leaves the program.
Currently, 23 women and two children are living at the Center, which opened in 2018 and also serves as a warming shelter, hosts an afer-school program and opens its gym to youth athletics.
The thrift store opened in the fall in the old Scurlock building on Sumiton's Main Street.
The building is approximately 100 years old, according to Massey.
Extensive renovations were undertaken in July and August 2020, making the thrift store part of an effort to revitalize downtown Sumiton that began in 2018.
"It's very important for us to be a part of this community because this community is such a blessing to us. We knew this thrift store was needed. We could have started it anywhere, but our roots are here. We decided that we want to be part of the rebirth of downtown Sumiton," said Massey, who also pastors Sumiton Church of God with her husband, Victor.
The merchandise in the store comes from donations dropped off at the Center, located at 23 Austin Circle in Dora. The donations are sorted weekly by the women in the recovery program, and new items are transported to the store every week.
For those who are not able to transport the donations themselves, the Center offers a pickup service. To arrange a time, call 205-255-6688. Donations are tax deductible.
The thrift store recently expanded into an adjacent storefront, providing more space in the main store to display larger pieces such as furniture, appliances and electronics.
The store is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It is located at 1309 Main Street in Sumiton.