By Clare S. Richie

One in four women are abused sexually by the time the reach adulthood.  As a woman and mother to a young daughter, I wondered what can our community do to respond to such a crisis?

Thankfully, I needed to look no further than one of my favorite streets in Atlanta – North Highland Avenue – for answers.

Wellspring Treasures opened in April at 784 N. Highland Avenue (near Bill Hallman Original). At first glance, this is an upscale resale boutique that specializes in new and gently used furniture, clothing and house wares. Upbeat manager, Brianna Campbell, greets me and explains how these bargains help women and girls with broken pasts rebuild their lives.

Proceeds from the store (and the other locations outside the Perimeter) cover about one-quarter of the budget for the nonprofit, Wellspring Living.  Started more than a decade ago, the organization helps girls and women survivors of childhood sexual abuse move towards hopeful futures. The group provides participants with therapy, education, life skills and spiritual renewal – to heal the body, soul and spirit.

Maria (name changed to protect her identity) was the first woman to receive services at Wellspring Living. She came from a past of neglect, drug addiction, childhood sexual abuse and then trafficking.  Pimps often prey on young runaways. They offer food and shelter to establish trust, but then they coerce the girls into selling themselves and threaten violence if the girls resist. Drugs are often involved, as in Maria’s case, and addiction makes it harder for the girls to escape. But Maria is a survivor.  Wellspring Living gave her a home, counseling, life skills training, and hope for a new life. A decade later, Maria is happily married and has a little girl with big curly hair. She is pursuing a photography career and is a spokesperson for the organization.

Bargain hunting has never felt so good now that I know the purpose behind it. Wellspring Treasures has steals on designer jeans, trendy jewelry and must-have pottery. I also learn that this store operates almost completely on volunteer power, so the need for consistent volunteers is always high. There are a variety of opportunities ranging from accepting and pricing donations to merchandising and customer service. I make a mental note – what a meaningful service project for my daughter’s Brownie troop or my neighbor’s book club

Now, when you are cleaning out your drawers, closets, basement or attic, you have a convenient place to donate your treasures. You know those few precious tchotchkes that don’t warrant a yard sale, those designer jeans that you probably won’t ever squeeze into, and that drawer full of jewelry that you sift through each morning?  Bag ‘em up and bring them into Wellspring Treasures. Or, if you want them to pick up a piece of furniture or two, a volunteer will swing by on a Saturday and pick it up for you.

By shopping, volunteering or donating to Wellspring Treasures – you’ll soon be making a real difference in the life of a sexually abused girl or woman, like Maria.

For more information, visit wellspringliving.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.