TRACY -- Shopping to save lives, that's the idea behind a new thrift store in Tracy. The store, located on West 11th Street, is helping women escape violent situations.
Andrea Juarez is a domestic violence survivor. She was “a victim for close to 30 years."
"So, you know when you're in that kind of a situation you think that there's nobody there to help you. You don’t think that anybody cares about you,” she said.
After escaping violence, she's now dedicating her life to helping other women do the same with Chest of Hope, an organization working to end domestic violence.
“We need that support. We need to know that there are people out there to help us because sometimes we feel like this is what we deserve,” Juarez said.
When she's not at work, she's volunteering her time at Treasure Chest Thrift Shop.
At this store, customers aren't just shopping for a deal, they're shopping for a cause.
The new store opened just last week.
“We did need something like this, you know. A thrift store that's helping the community but also being helped by the community, Juarez said.
Whether you're buying a sweater or furniture, all the proceeds go towards funding programs and long-term transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence.
“It's really nice shopping here knowing it goes to a good cause,” said customer Brittney Smith.
Merlyn Pittman founded Chest of Hope after working as a correctional officer.
She saw firsthand how domestic violence can break women.
“I saw many women who were in prison because they took abuse for so long and then the one time they stood up for themselves it landed them in prison. Often times they were lifers,” said Pittman.
Right now, Pittman’s organization offers survivors a safe haven but she wants to give them back their lives.
“We found that 45 to 60 days isn't enough to really get a woman to the place she needs to be to become whole. So, we'd like to have transitional housing where we can put them through a program and teach them all the tools they need to become self-sufficient,” Pittman explained.
Now, Chest of Hope is asking ‘thrifters’ to help them, help more women by shopping at the Treasure Chest, where customers aren't just saving money, they're saving lives.
“When you're coming in and you're shopping, it's knowing that you're giving somebody hope and somebody a better life,” Juarez said.
Chest of Hope's transition home will open in June of next year and provide more long-term care and support for domestic violence survivors.
The organization operates solely on donations and fundraisers. If you'd like to donate or learn more about what they do, you can visit their website, ChestofHope.org.