Extending Helping Hands: Local thrift store employs Oxford residents with special needs

Johnny Neumann

Through prayer and perseverance, Oxford native Donna Howard established Holding Hands Resale Shop to provide employment for for her daughter with special needs.

Holding Hands, at 2618 W. Oxford Loop, is a typical thrift store, but unique in the fact that all employees have special needs. Howard, 62, opened the business in January of 2013 with $15,000.

She got the idea after meeting a man in Nashville, who had a daughter with autism. He opened a thrift store so his daughter could work and help others.

Howard decided to do the same for her daughter, Cassie, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

After speaking to numerous churches, charities and groups, Howard received donations and was able to open the store. Bookshelves, paint, carpet and items to sell were also donated by community members.

“Everything has been donated,” Howard said. “Then we resell it at reasonable prices to help others. I never throw anything away and bring everything to my store.

“A family called (recently) saying their house had just burned down, losing everything. I told them to come in, and we would try to help them.”

Cassie was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia in the early 1990s and never felt comfortable working. She often asked her mother to let her quit jobs and help her find new ones.

“I think doctors back then really didn’t know how to treat schizophrenia,” Howard said. “Cassie was diagnosed when she was 13, and this is unique because chronic paranoid schizophrenia usually occurs in people in their mid 20s.”

Howard said her grandson, Tate, came up with the name for the store. He said, “Mamaw, we will have to hold their hands and help them.”

Cassie, now 38, works there with the other employees.

Howard said the store always welcomes donations.


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