The modern, brick and metal building sits at a crossroads, its big windows looking out onto Auto Logic across the street, past Akai Hana up toward the Town Commons and Carrboro Town Hall.
YouthWorx on Main comes as its parent agency, The PTA Thrift Shop next door, is at a crossroads too.
Renovating the aging Carrboro store (the shop’s other store is on Elliot Road) and building the coworking space at 117 W. Main St. is why the Thrift Shop hasn’t been able to give local PTAs as much money these days. And lots of people don’t like that. As staff writer Tammy Grubb reported last fall, councils in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will have to rely more on their own fundraising while the Thrift Shop pays down its mortgage.
But the Thrift Shop hopes the community is patient. It’s inviting people to learn more about YouthWorx on Main during an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday. I got a preview from the shop’s Pat Richardson last week.
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The center is cool looking, with bright water colors hanging at the entrance, eclectic tables and chairs more like you’d find in a student union or coffee shop than a typical office. A waist-high Darth Vader extends a bouquet of yellow and orange flowers beside two acoustic guitars that visitors can strum on a couch. All the furnishings are Thrift Shop donations..
Behind glass walls off the central commons are the offices, shared by two or more nonprofits each. Tenants pay $240 a month. Community groups may rent YouthWorx, with its conference rooms, kitchen and 72-space parking lot (shared with the Thrift Shop), for $30 an hour.
The Thrift Shop considers YouthWorx on Main the future, a way to serve more children and young people than the stores alone ever could. You can only sell so much used cothing, furniture and CDs (and even Best Buy is giving up on those). There is no limit on how many people you can serve by helping nonprofits thrive.
Kevin Hicks ran Triangle Bikeworks from his kitchen for four years before moving in. The IBM employee organizes cross-country bike trips, summer camps and teaches basic bicycle repairs to get more kids riding.
“Everybody here is youth serving; it’s like a family,” he says of the co-working hub “I can go down the hall and ask questions.”
Hicks, who can work his day job remotely, visits YouthWorx three days a week. In this #MeToo age, he says having a public space to work with kids is another plus. He could do the work somewhere else, he says, but “I think it makes it a thousand times easier.”
The Refugee Community Partnership, another tenant, helps resettled refugees find work. Director Madison Hayes say they look at job openings, talk about likely wages would afect any benefits their clients are receiving and if needed, help write a resume and navigate language and cultural challenges. Several have gone on to work in the store next door.
“The PTA [Thrift Shop] has been a dream employer for RCP members,” Hayes said by email.
And YouthWorx has been dream space for the partnership. “Being a small, scrappy nonprofit is hard, as all organizations know, and developing them can be a tiring and isolating experience,” Hayes said. “Being among colleagues grinding away on the same challenges allows all of us to support one another, to share insights and lessons learned, which hopefully shortens the learning curve for all of us.”
YouthWorx is “powered by” the PTA Thrift Shop and Youth Forward, the latter group hired to run the place. There is room for a few more tenants, as well as members who can attend workshops and use the tables and chairs in the commons.
Richardson knows they’re not going to win everyone over right away.
She just hopes they take time to find out more, either Thursday evening or on one of the tours YouthWorx gives two or three times a day.
“Parents are still concerned [about school PTAs getting less money] I was a parent in CHCCS, so I get it,” Richardson says. “The only thing I ask is that they meet us halfway. ... This is community right here.”
Mark Schultz is the managing editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at email@example.com, or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @HeraldSunEditor.