Recognizing the pressing need for students with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and other challenges to develop vocational experience and skills, The Help Group created Silverlining, an upscale resale boutique, in 2011 to serve as a student vocational training center. Since its opening, Silverlining has enabled the young people of The Help Group to learn and develop valuable job-related skills that contribute to their knowledge, self-confidence, employability, and future independence.
Argie Plakas serves as store manager of Silverlining and oversees the day-to-day training, “I see the confidence and social skills of our students improve so much as they interact with each other and with the customers. They experience successes here that prepare them to move on to new opportunities in their lives.”
The boutique, located adjacent to The Help Group’s Culver City campus, offers a wide selection of new, vintage, and gently used fashionable and designer clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children. Donations of high quality merchandise from customers, businesses, and designers have been critical to Silverlining’s success. Students are involved in all aspects of the store, including sorting donations, organizing and tagging clothing, inventory, helping customers, and checkout.
The hands-on retail experience has been overwhelmingly positive for the student workers. Theo volunteered, “I’m really excited and happy to work at Silverlining. I like having the responsibility of a job.” Tyler was more specific, “I love doing checkout and inventory. I like checkout more because it is a big responsibility, and I really like responsibility.” Student Ian shared, “I used to be really shy, but working at Silverlining has helped me to grow because I had to learn how to talk to customers.”
Students like Randy have set new goals for themselves, “I’ve learned a lot here, and hope my experience can help me get a job in retail.” Student Ian will head to college next fall, “I’m using this experience to build my resume. After I graduate high school, I’m going to go to Pierce College to their Equestrian Program. I can use the customer service skills I learned here when I become a veterinary technician.”
The Help Group invites you to support our efforts at Silverlining. Visit the store to meet our student workers and feel great about shopping while supporting a worthy cause. If you’re cleaning out your closet, please consider donating some of the items you no longer wear. Best of all, help young people develop the skills they will need to succeed in life…a silver lining for all.