Opportunity Village after the Fire

 Written by Kristan Obeng

 Las Vegans of various backgrounds have united to support Opportunity Village through donations and volunteerism after a ravaging fire in July halted operations of its downtown thrift store.

“Las Vegas has a stigma of being greedy. The fire showed Las Vegas is a caring community,” said Stephen Miller, special events manager for Opportunity Village.

Miller estimates the thrift store’s loss of revenue at $160,000 since the fire. He added, “On first Friday we usually average $13,000.”

          

 “We’re 80 percent self funded,” he said of the charity. “We wouldn’t have been around for over 50 years without community support.”

“Volunteer turnout has been great,” Miller said. “They work eight-hour shifts every single day.  A lot of people show up and bring friends.”

He added, “We get repeats too. One girl volunteered three or four days a week since the fire.”

At the charity’s Oakey campus parking lot sat two huge white trailers filled with furniture and clothing donations. Miller said one woman who was out of work donated her belongings. One trailer held furniture all donated from Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.  

Jack Collin Stone spent his second day volunteering at this donation drop off point with Opportunity Village employees in the blazing sun.

The youth said he decided to use his summer to volunteer. “My Grandma recommended it,” Stone said, “I’m just doing what I can to help.”

Miller said, “People are driving up and donating clothing, lamps…”

Stone said he also loaded trucks with donations from the community.

The trailers and trucks are donations according to Miller. Freeman, an event organizing company, donated the trailers. “We’ve now exceeded 25 trailers,” he said.

Miller explained the trucks provided by Penske are used for donation pick ups from community members who called them. He said, “We’re three weeks out. We still need to pick up donations. We’re busy busy everyday.”

Opportunity Village is developing a deal with SinCityTrader.com, a new website opening in September for sellers and buyers.

Miller explained, “They will open early to exclusively let Opportunity Village use the site. We will take photos of our donations and post them.” Customers can then browse or buy items online. 

He said the new partnership with Terry Fator will allow Opportunity Village to spread its mission, which is to serve people with intellectual disabilities, provide them with employment and social interaction.

Fator, a headliner at the Mirage Resort and Casino, will raise $1 million for the charity through events and concerts.

Miller explained Fator became interested in the charity when he visited last year’s Magical Forest, an annual holiday event. “He toured two of our three campuses and immediately decided he wanted to get involved with the organization on a major level.”

“We shot a PSA that will play in the Mirage showroom before his shows,” he said.  “Fator will make appearances at Magical Forests and he’ll do his first big concert in support of us in the spring.”

“A lot of businesses are doing drives from toys to clothing.” He added, “Pardee Homes donated $10,000 – probably more- in furniture from model homes. GES gave us 30,000 square feet of storage space.”

The charity’s next priority is to find a donated retail space until the thrift store is rebuilt. Rebuilding could take up to two years according to Miller.  

The thrift store employees are now working on the charity’s other campuses. “The 40 people who worked there are not doing what they enjoy. They’d rather be working in retail,” Miller said.

Patricia McCline, who worked at the thrift store since 1984, was upset by the fire.  She’s now working at the Oakey campus doing fulfillment services such as mass mailing and packaging.

“I miss the customers and learning about cashiering,” she said of the thrift store.

The charity’s thrift store operated at the downtown intersection of Main Street and Coolidge Avenue for nearly 60 years until the currently unsolved fire erupted.

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