SBEC: Change is Growth

Over the last nine years, Treasures & Such has evolved and changed as requirements from the government and the needs of participants at SBEC have evolved and changed.

Judi Jaworski, Supervisor of Job Development, has seen many of these changes over her last 28 years at SBEC. She was instrumental in the development of Treasures & Such, which was initially established to meet EARN (Employment and Retention Network) program guidelines of having on-site community centers. These centers would provide short-term skills based training that would lead to entry level employment.

At the time, SBEC was working with several refugees moving into the Erie area who needed household goods, clothing, personal items, etc. Establishing Treasures & Such served a dual purpose. First, participants learned customer service skills, stocking inventory, inventory control pricing and cash register/money handling transactions. Second, an incentive program for the participants was begun to reward them for working toward their goals and becoming more self-sufficient. “Benny Bucks” (paper money) were introduced with various ways that participants could earn them and purchase items for themselves and their families at the store.

Initially the store was staffed by participants, under the supervision of the Community Service Coordinator. Participants interested in entering employment in the retail or customer service were assigned to this area.

The SBEC staff began providing donations to the program. Eventually the SBEC employer base was contacted and information about the intentions for the store and incentive program was shared with them. The staff was amazed at the response and the quality of the items provided: gift cards, linens, household goods, towels, paper products, etc. Treasures & Such was evolving.

When Sister Dorothy Stoner joined the staff at SBEC, she responded to the changing direction and needs of the store. She devoted time and energy into creating a group of committed volunteers that provided suggestions and assisted in a variety of ways as the store was renovated, and performed all that was necessary to successfully maintain the store. Word traveled that the Benedictine Sisters were engaged in this ministry and donations began coming from Erie and outside of the area. Volunteers brought items to enhance the store and began contacting family, friends and organizations to assist in accumulating items that participants needed. To accommodate the donations, a large storage room became available and volunteers went to work to sort and organize. As participants moved into the workforce and new participants arrived, volunteers acted as “shopper assistants” to help provide a pleasant shopping experience. Schedules were established as an organized method of ensuring that each group of participants received an equal opportunity to shop when the inventory was at its peak.

Participants are proud and delighted to share their purchases from Treasures & Such and sincerely appreciate the opportunity to earn “Benny Bucks”. They are grateful they can use these bucks to get items they cannot buy with their SNAP benefits – items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, personal supplies.

Treasures & Such continues to change and evolve as interested participants and volunteers work together to make it a worthwhile experience for everyone who enters.

Photo: Purchases are being checked out by volunteers.

Click here to visit the SBEC web page and to learn more about this ministry.