BLISS gives back tenfold
Published 1:40 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017
By Anna M. Bultrowicz
Special to The K-V Dispatch
Lena Hipps-Clarke and her husband Clarence pride themselves on being unique, and BLISS of Lunenburg is a non-profit thrift store like no other.
Hipps-Clarke founded BLISS in April 2012, after her husband was permanently disabled due to a work-related injury.
Struggling with mobility, he had trouble finding work. Hipps-Clarke, who worked as a full-time special education teacher at Central High School at the time, realized better than anyone the struggle that people with disabilities go through to find work.
“My students didn’t have anywhere to go to work, and they wanted to work. They wanted to do it. When you see that, you say to yourself, ‘What is out there for them?’” said Hipps-Clarke. Some of her former students still volunteer at BLISS, where they develop valuable customer relation and social skills.
The store currently has about 10 regular volunteers.
Since BLISS has opened, the store has given back over $25,000 to the community. Each month, the store chooses a charity or cause to donate their profits to. This month, BLISS is raising money to donate to Victoria Fire and Rescue. In the past, the store has donated to Kenbridge Salvation Army, Victoria Salvation Army, Lunenburg County Ministries and more.
Aside from its monthly donations, BLISS also raises money so they can donate school supplies to children on National Night Out.
“We don’t turn people away,” said Clarke, “We’re willing to help anybody if we can. You know how the saying goes: ‘If you’re willing to help yourself, we want to help you.’ You have to meet us halfway; you have to make an effort. A lot of people really need a helping hand, but they just don’t know how to go about asking for it.”
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without people in Chase City helping me out when I needed it when I was young, so this is my way of giving back to the area that I work in, that I live in,” said Hipps-Clarke.
The husband-and-wife duo aims to provide customers with what they need at prices that match their budgets, offering clothing for as low as 25 cents. More so than its reasonable prices, however, the family atmosphere of BLISS is what truly makes the store unique.
“(BLISS) is great for the community. They give back; that’s the most important thing,” said Shirley Atkinson, a Lunenburg thrifter and regular customer.
Hipps-Clarke and her husband greet most of the customers who walk through their doors on a first-name basis, and they care so much that they regularly check in on some of their more elderly customers.
“We have several (customers) that, if we don’t see them within two days, we’re calling them,” said Hipps-Clarke, “They’re older, they’re in their 70s, and they don’t have any family. So we call them if we don’t see them within two days.”
Clarke has even gone out of his way to drive community members to therapy sessions when they didn’t have anyone else to take them.
“If everybody works together, you have a better community. And that’s all I want,” said Hipps-Clarke.