Metro Care and Share Society Breaking Down Barriers with New Scholarship

We interviewed Solitha Shortte of Metro Care and Share Society about their thrift store, and its link to their Halifax Scholars Program and new Buy Social Certification. From left to right: Mel Boutilier and Solitha Shortte from Metro Care and Share, and Rodney Small from Common Good Solution's Buy Social Program.

Metro Care & Share Society (MCSS) is a registered charity that has been active since 1984 as a fundraising organization for education and community initiatives. The organization has recently been re-energized to serve as a vehicle for new innovative charitable initiatives, such as the Halifax Scholar Program, which was launched June 2015. Each program offers unique services targeted at high-risk youths and families in HRM.

The Halifax Scholars Program is focused on empowering youths from low socio-economic backgrounds through education and making opportunities accessible for them to explore post-secondary institutions as a viable option in their future aspirations. Under MCSS’s Halifax Scholars Program, each participant will be assigned a mentor who will provide that extra support-system for the student, helping them navigate through the journey that lies before them.

The organization recently opened their thrift store on Agricola Street this year in June to help with their fund-raising efforts for the Halifax Scholars Program Fund. We caught up with Solitha Shortte, Marketing and Operations Coordinator for Metro Care and Share Society Scholars Program to ask her some questions about Buy Social Canada and MCSS’s new venture.

Q: What is the purpose of Metro Care and Share’s social enterprise, the thrift store?

A: Metro Care and Share Society’s main focus is helping high-risk youths in our communities attain a post-secondary education. The thrift store was setup to provide a constant flow of revenue for the organization. Our intent at MCSS is to present opportunities by eliminating obstacles, and to level the playing-field for high-risk youths in disadvantaged communities, who might otherwise be limited in their reach due to their born circumstances.

Breaking down barriers and building possibilities is why we’re here.

The thrift store is a way for Nova Scotians to donate household items they don’t need anymore, which we then sell back to the community at deeply reduced prices, with all the revenue going directly towards helping funding our Scholars Program.

I feel like for the individuals who take the time to donate, along with the customers who choose to support the store by making purchases, it gives a sense of ownership to what where doing here. In a small but significant way each of our supporters can claim responsibility for creating opportunities and making dreams a reality for our Halifax Scholars Program participants. The first student we sponsored - we were able to do so as a result of the funds raised through our on-going “IF WHAT $20 Campaign” challenge along with revenue generated from donations to our on-site thrift store.

The goal of MCSS is to present opportunities by removing barriers, and to level the playing-field for tomorrow’s leaders. We really want to instil in our youths the presence of hope. It is imperative that we try our best to debunk the perception that where you’re born is the dictating factor in fuelling your desired destination.

Q: Why thrift store? Why did you decide to use this model to fundraise instead of others?

The thrift store is just one avenue through which we plan to raise funds for the charity. Its purpose here is to provide a location so the community can have daily interaction with the organization. We believe it creates a community within a community. The donated items are available to people who can’t afford full-price items, or individuals who just want to support the organization. They buy at our store and feel good that their purchases and donations are going to help deserving students further their education, as they might otherwise not get the chance to go to college or university.

When someone donates furniture, or any other house-hold items- their contributions serve dual purposes: for one, the revenue gained goes toward the Scholars program fund, and two: the un-needed item is kept out of landfills, it’s recycled and repurposed. So the store serves not only the people but the environment as well.

Q: And why a scholarship program?

We realized there is a need for help beyond government structured programs. The individuals who are in desperate need are usually the ones who face the most obstacles getting the help. Our criteria is based on a simple structure: the applicants need to have the academic aptitude to pursue post-secondary institutions, lack the financial resources, and the family has to be on board with playing a supportive role in their journey; we interview the student and their families to ensure they’re committed, supportive and in serious financial need, after they’ve exhausted the standard channels for funding.

 

Q: So who has the program impacted so far?

A: We just sponsored our first participant, Denisho Goree. He had no way of getting into NSCC due to financial limitations. When his aunt applied to our program assistance Denisho was in his last few months at Citadel high school. His caretakers (aunt and grandma) knew they couldn’t afford to send him to further his education without help. Still they were hesitant to tell him there was no means to get him to where he needed to go - they kept looking for an opportunity. That’s when we came into the picture. When they approached us, it was a no-brainier for Mel; he thought the student was the perfect person to receive our assistance, making him the first recipient of the scholarship. Mr. Goree couldn’t get a loan or get into certain programs he applied for through the normal channels. To us he exemplified the spirit of giving, he volunteers in his community giving back to the kids around him, when he himself needed help. Denisho was very grateful for the help from all the people in HRM supporting the program and was beaming from the realization his dream was now attainable, once his enrolment was confirmed at the Nova Scotia Community College. To quote him from another interview”: “There is a joy in my heart.” It was as if a weight was lifted off his shoulders and he can now move forward with pursuing his dream. He can become a skilled carpenter as he loves working with his hands, and now he isn’t forced to do something else because he had no choice. Denisho will be a great role model. He’s going to be the kind of person younger kids will look up to, and hopefully they’ll say: “You did it so I can too!” It only takes one kid to spark that hope in other kids around them, hopefully starting a cycle of change.

Q: How’s it all going and growing so far?

A: Even though we have dedicated volunteers, it is a struggle to find new volunteers on a long term basis. We have plenty of donations for the store inventory, as well as the public has been very generous in supporting our “What If” $20 fundraising campaign! We however would love to attract more corporate sponsorship to help us achieve our fund-raising goals. Clearwater Seafood limited is a great supporter of the organization, and we're truly grateful to them for their support. Our hope is others will jump onboard to make this a lasting success.

 

Q: And what do you hope Buy Social will do for Metro Care and Share?

I hope it will help us in getting our name out there more, creating awareness, and generating interest in what we're doing here – We hope this exposure will get the message across that the organization is all about community advancement through education with our Scholar’s Program - there’s also an environmental aspect that’s important too, both creating a triple effect: People, planet and progress; it is very important that our supporters know that their contributions goes where it’s most needed.

Learn more about Buy Social Canada here: http://buysocialcanada.ca Learn more about Metro Care and Share here: http://www.metrocareandshare.com