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BLISS offers opportunities to county

It all started with a dream — a dream that turned into BLISS Thrift Store in Victoria.

BLISS has been a staple to the Lunenburg community ever since it began almost three years ago. Since opening the store has not only provided necessities at reasonable prices to those in need, but it also teaches Central High School volunteer students pre-employment training before entering the workforce after high school.

“If we know their need, we provide clothes for school kids and any kind of things they might need for school,” said BLISS owner Lena Hipps-Clarke. “If I know you need it, I will help you get what it is that you need.”

Hipps-Clarke, a teacher for students with intellectual disabilities at Lunenburg County Public Schools, says the idea of starting the shop came to her in a dream during Christmas break one year.

“I have always said that things come to me in my dreams and one night this just struck me,” Lena said. “It was actually a vision of providing my students an opportunity to have a job and to be able to feel accepted by their community.”

After talking her ideas over coffee with her good friend Marty Lyles, Hipps-Clarke built up the courage to start the BLISS project with her husband, Clarence.

Since putting her dream to work and making it a reality for the Lunenburg community, Hipps-Clarke says that the opportunities have grown for students. “We are just a group of people working together to make our community better and to help support each other,” she said. “We have given over $16,000 back to different organizations and charities (with BLISS’ Charity of the Month program) in Lunenburg, while also helping the students train for future jobs.”

Central High School’s Destiny Barrett volunteers at BLISS after school. The 15-year-old says that she has learned job and life skills while working at the store. (Photo by Hannah Davis)

Central High School’s Destiny Barrett volunteers at BLISS after school. The 15-year-old says that she has learned job and life skills while working at the store. (Photo by Hannah Davis)

The job training that students receive at BLISS include anything from building customer service to learning how to handle money and run a register. Every person that works at BLISS is a volunteer, and according to Hipps-Clarke, but they are also family.

“We have a great group of volunteers. My husband, sister, mother and brother all work here. Plus, the volunteers who are not related have become family,” Hipps-Clarke said.

“It is a great feeling and it helps that the Lunenburg County community has just embraced us.”

BLISS even has developed a BLISS Bucks program for the store, that allows volunteers to earn store credit for working a certain amount of hours.

High school sophomore volunteer Destiny Barrett says she feels the same way.

“I just became an aunt and I actually work two jobs. So, the only way I can support my unborn nephew is to work here,” Barrett said. “Working here has given me the opportunity to help my family by getting them clothes and shoes and everything like that. I now know what it is like to have a job, the responsibilities that come with a job and it has been fantastic.”

Ashley Cox began working as a volunteer when she graduated high school in 2011, and she says that BLISS has given her an opportunity that no one has in the past.

“It really made me mature because I am learning about organization,” Cox said. “Working with customers is really awesome.

BLISS has shown the volunteers a way to help people struggling in their community, and Barrett says that is the most rewarding feeling.

“I see people everyday go without and it makes me want to help them. Now I have that opportunity to help them when they need it. It makes me feel better to see them receiving things they need,” said Barrett. “My experience hear has been wonderful and I plan to work here for a really long time. I really love it here.”

BLISS Thrift Store is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is also open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those interested in learning more about BLISS or about volunteering for the store can contact the store at (434) 696-1330.