Something Special celebrates one-year anniversary

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Something Special, a thrift store benefiting the Smithfield Hands & Hearts nonprofit organization, celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 17.

Hands & Hearts describes its mission as providing adults with intellectual disabilities with meaningful work and creative opportunities. Kristin Wilda, the program’s founder, said she “stumbled upon” the opportunity last year to open Something Special while talking with Tim Miller of Chili Hill Food Market. Miller, she recalls, had mentioned to her that space in the front of the building on Main Street that houses Chili Hill had come available.

Everything in the store is donated, including the merchandise for sale, and the labor it took volunteers to renovate the space into what it is today. Her only costs are rent, utilities and a paid manager.

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Wilda started Hands & Hearts in 2016, originally as a program of Trinity United Methodist Church, but branched out as her own independent nonprofit last year for the purpose of handling the store’s payroll and taxes.

With Wilda to celebrate the store’s anniversary were Hands & Hearts program participants Jason Kelly, Carl Roff and Brendan Acree, Carl’s sister-in-law and caregiver, Jane Roff, and volunteers Pam Staha and Kerry Puglisi. Jane holds the paid manager position.

Jason and Carl have been in the group since 2017. Acree joined this past fall after aging out of a program at Smithfield High School. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, public schools must provide special education services to children and youth ages 3 to 21. But it can be a challenge for caregivers to find day-to-day activities for youth who age out of the public school program. That’s where Hands & Hearts steps in.

Jason Kelly is now a supervisor at Something Special. The goal of the store, Wilda said, is not just to raise money for the program but give its participants the opportunity to be with friends and hold a job. The group also goes on field trips. They’ve been to a pumpkin patch, the Virginia Zoo and Busch Gardens.

“They’re a very positive group. … They just see the sunshine in everything,” Staha said.

The store also functions as a community resource for adults with disabilities and their caregivers.