By Alicia Mandigo | August 02, 2012
It sits just at the crest of the hill in down town Oviedo in the shadow of the giant Baptist church across the street. It’s The Vine Outreach Thrift Store, a modest store that screams “look at me” with street-side displays of eclectic wares and signs offering free bread and pastries. Perhaps you’ve noticed it without realizing that its purpose is to serve the people in our community who go unnoticed.
“We try to give people their life vision back, or perhaps give them a new vision,” Director Cindy Shadron said.
Shadron opened The Vine five years ago as a way to raise money for a proposed ranch that would serve as a transitional facility for teenagers aging out of foster care. Plans have named it the Shiloh Ranch, and it will provide children with a chance to participate in a working ranch while acquiring the skills and services they need to transition into adulthood. Of course, the ranch concept requires money, so Shadron created an umbrella nonprofit called The Forgotten Ones, and The Vine operates beneath it by generating the bulk of the nonprofit’s funding.
The Vine is housed in what used to be a downtown cottage. It holds an abundance of stuff that is strikingly well organized throughout The Vine’s small space. A steady stream of people shuffle through. Some of the visitors are there to shop, but most of them are there to visit Shadron and her volunteers.
“We try to connect with people; we don’t simply give them bread and send them on their way,” Shadron said.
The people who come through are people in need of services and moral support, and The Vine provides it. A woman newly arrived from Puerto Rico needed help securing identification. She can’t get a job without ID, so The Vine helped her. An alcoholic homeless man who cleaned up his act needed to clean up his appearance, so The Vine provided him a haircut and a shave.
“We do so much; it’s hard to quantify,” Shadron said. “We’ve taught people to read, we help them find work, we try to meet them where they are in life and give them a hand up.”
However, the tables recently have turned for the nonprofit. Now, The Vine is receiving their own hand up from a 16-year-old scout working toward his Eagle Scout rank.
“I decided to do a project for them because they’ve been giving to the community for years, and I thought it was time somebody gave something back to them,” prospective Eagle Scout Andrew McCrary said.
The Vine has outgrown its space. In the lot behind the thrift store, The Vine has a tractor-trailer so overloaded with Christmas decorations that spill out when the door is opened. The decorations will provide good revenue when the season hits, but right now, they can’t even be displayed. So McCrary proposed building shelves to put in the tractor-trailer for his Eagle Scout project. It’s an enormous undertaking. The trailer first has to be emptied. He will then build sets of 6-by-8 foot shelving for displaying the Christmas decorations. When it’s complete, McCrary will have built a total of 360 square feet worth of shelving space. It’s the kind of project that could easily intimidate someone.
“I was [intimidated] in the beginning because I had to raise $700 and I wasn’t really prepared, but now I’m comfortable with it,” McCrary said.
In addition to raising the money to pay for the shelving, McCrary has also recruited volunteers to help with the work. It will have been an eight-month long project when he completes it this month.
McCrary and his fellow scouts have volunteered at The Vine before, helping with things like serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. He says he was particularly drawn to The Vine’s mission of helping children aging out of foster care, and that’s why he asked Shadron if he could use The Vine for his Eagle Scout project.
“She told me, ‘I always have projects for Eagle Scouts,'” McCrary said.
That’s understandable, since Shadron said the scouts always do impressive work.