Jerome Jones has been a volunteer at the Hosea Youth Services Thrift Store since November of last year. He began as a customer at the store and asked Mike Lazar, assistant manager of the thrift store, if he could help out. His own experiences, he believes, would help him connect with the homeless.
“I know what these kids are going through,” Jones says.
Lazar and Ken Harvey, executive director of Hosea Youth Services, have made a great impact on Jones’s life.
“They’re teaching me things I couldn’t even start to do with non-family members,” Jones says. “It’s been a development for me too.”
Jones was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and says he realized he had to work really hard in life to be able to do what others without impairments could do. His vocabulary was at a sixth or seventh grade level after being diagnosed because of his inability to hear words clearly.
“It made me fight harder,” Jones says. “I don’t place my hope on technology. I have more of a spiritual hope that it’ll get better.”
Jones was born in Carbondale, Illinois. Him and his family moved to Eugene when he was 5 years old. He worked in warehouses for Seneca Foods and Fred Meyer most of his life, and plans on eventually returning to the work force.
In the meantime, Jones puts a lot of time and effort into the thrift store.
“I enjoy decorating this place,” Jones says, showing off the holiday decorations scattered throughout the shop. “With help from all of the volunteers, I’m extremely proud of the store.”
In addition, he puts time and effort into the customers that come to the store.
“You get to learn their names,” Jones says. “When they’re stressed I can call them by their names—it calms them down.”
He knows the backgrounds of many of the customers, like Megan Jacob, a shopper at the
store. This care and knowledge helps to create a friendly atmosphere and helps Jones to determine pricing. He says he bases prices off of their needs versus their wants, as well as their personal situation.
Jacob comes to the counter to talk to Jones. She talks about her current issues with family and friends, and the clothes she’s planning on buying. As Jones lifts Jacob’s heavy purse to put behind the counter while she looks around, he says,
“I’ve seen them pack their whole home in their bags.”
Because of his desire to help his patrons, Jones is constantly trying to encourage youth and homeless to volunteer at the store, but says it takes a lot of patience.
Jones lights up as he talks about his oldest daughter who works at the Drop-in Center, where he also occasionally volunteers.