The Boutique at the YMCA, a win-win for all
For more than 125 years, the YWCA Northcentral PA, 815 W. Fourth St. in Williamsport, has been focused on “eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” The programs there “work toward these goals by providing people with resources,” such as the organization’s Wise Options and Liberty House programs.
In 1973, Wise Options opened as a shelter for female, domestic violence victims and since that time has expanded to help all people who are victims of sexual assault and violent crimes. Liberty House opened its doors in 2003 as an intensive housing program for women and their children who are experiencing homelessness and now is a permanent supportive housing facility for individuals experiencing addiction and homelessness.
In 2013, then-CEO Diane Glenwright, along with staff members Vanessa Hunter and Anna Thompson, began to explore a new dependable source of income to fund the YWCA shelters. After looking at other successful YWCAs throughout the country, they quickly discovered that many of them had one of two things: a day care or a secondhand store. After assessing the facility’s space and with the community’s best interest in mind, the idea of opening a boutique was born according to Boutique Manager Kahlie DeHotman.
“We have always aimed to fit a niche, but much-needed spot in our community, of being both an affordable and quality place to shop,” DeHotman said. “With so many stores in our area closing in recent years, that niche position has become more and more important.”
Located within the YWCA, The Boutique has been funding Wise Options and Liberty House since its opening on June 19, 2013, which not only supports clients through safe housing, but also empowers them with benefits like legal advocacy, support groups and training courses, such as parenting and budgeting classes.
“We work to help revitalize their lives whether that be through gaining independence through steady work and housing, working through court procedures to gain justice and safety from abusers, achieving sobriety, regaining child custody rights or whatever else is needed,” DeHotman said. “We also provide funds for community education on important topics such as domestic abuse and safe dating for teens.”
And the community has certainly benefited from having a high-end thrift store that is extremely committed to quality.
“Each and every item that comes into The Boutique goes through three quality checks to make sure there are no stains, holes, odors, heavy wear or other damages,” DeHotman said.
Visitors will find new and like new clothing, shoes and accessories — like both fine and costume jewelry, handbags, scarves, hats and gloves — for all seasons, styles, genders and ages.
“We usually change out everything in our store twice a year to change seasons from spring and summer to fall and winter, but we store all off-season items in our storage rooms so we are able to take items like heavy coats in the summer.”
Besides being a steady source of funding for the shelters and a low-cost shopping opportunity for the local community, DeHotman said the residents of the Liberty House and Wise Options shelters can shop for much-needed clothing from The Boutique free of charge.
“Boutique staff and volunteers work directly with our clients and their case managers to provide everything from pajamas and workout clothes to interview outfits,” she said. “Many of these women and children arrive at the YWCA with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We help make sure they are clothed, comfortable, confident and prepared for the new life they are working towards.”
Donations of three bags or boxes may be brought into The Boutique during usual store hours, 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Those with larger donations should schedule an appointment with DeHotman one day in advance by calling 570-322-4637, ext. 121.