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Three women from Springfield’s Harmony House, a shelter that provides education and safety for domestic violence victims, are working in Drury’s Panther Pride Store. The jobs, created in part by Drury’s Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE team, provides the women with hands-on retail work and personal communication experience. The SIFE team hopes that they can help provide employment like this for other domestic violence survivors. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark talks to one of these women, who tells how this opportunity has reshaped her lifestyle.
Megan Garcia is a senior SIFE member at Drury, and helped start the partnership between Harmony House and the university.
“They help with everything in the store and outside of the store.”
She says she was part of a seven member group that interviewed and trained the women in December. She said though it was difficult, the group could only pick three people to work right now.
“We asked them questions like, ‘Do you have any experience in retail?’ which was not important, but we wanted to kind of get a feel with how they are with people and how personable they are. Just simple questions like that, just to get to know them, and that’s how we selected them.”
The Drury Panther Pride store serves as the main outlet for athletic merchandise on campus. The store offers a unique opportunity for employees to learn the ins and outs of the retail industry. The women have been doing things like pricing, arranging inventory, sales and closing down the store. In addition to the job, the women have also been attending a weekly seminar series led by the SIFE team. The series consists of different workshops that help the workers learn budgeting, resume building and proper interview etiquette.
One woman from Harmony House, who didn’t want us to use her name, is 21 years old. She attended college at Drury University in Cabool before coming to Springfield. Though she’s not used to a campus as big as Springfield’s, she really enjoys working here.
“They’re pretty nice people, I mean they’re awesome. I’ve got a lot of new friends and stuff. Most of the Drury people that I’ve met, they remember me. Like the other day, I was walking, I walked by some girls running, and they all knew my name. That kind of really shocked me because it was girls from Drury that just ran past me.”
She talked a little bit about the different things she has learned while working in the store.
“All sorts of stuff like how to run the cash register, that was new to me, [they] showed me how to that. Talking to people, and how nice everybody can be, and not so hateful, so it was really cool to be in that kind of environment.”
She says she’s become more comfortable interacting with people since working here.
She says she doesn’t know where she wants to be in five years, and that she’s just getting through a day at a time. She told me living at Harmony House and having opportunities like working have really helped her.
Sarah Montgomery, director of SIFE at Drury, says she can already see positive changes in these women.
“It’s been amazing to see them come so far in the few weeks that we’ve been working with them. They’re loving it, they’ve learned the ins and outs of the computer system better than we even knew it. They’re helping us make purchasing decisions, and restocking. You can see the confidence they have, and it’s really refreshing to see. It’s been great to be a part of this.”
Garcia, the SIFE student, echoes her words.
“I find it very rewarding because it’s something that has happened to me and to my family, so this is something that I can give back. I want to show these women that life does go on and just because something awful has happened, that there’s still hope and there’s always going to be people that are going help you pick yourself back up.”
Both Montgomery and Garcia say they plan to keep this program going in the future for other women at Harmony House.
Harmony House has provided care for over 10,000 survivors of domestic violence.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.