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October 1, 2014

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Survivor Store a ‘center of opportunity’ for victims of domestic violence

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Christopher DeVargas

Rebeca Ferreira, a survivor of domestic abuse, works in her thrift shop Survivor Store and Training Center, Thursday, April 25, 2013. The secondhand store helps victims of domestic violence by training them to find employment and become financially independent.

Survivor Store and Training Center

Rebeca Ferreira and Francisca Torres, both survivors of domestic violence, stand inside their thrift shop Survivor Store and Training Center, Thursday, April 25, 2013. The secondhand store helps victims of domestic violence by training them to find employment and become financially independent. Launch slideshow »

Survivor Store & Training Center

Casino management told the single mother of three she could work as a maid — nothing else. Her accent was too thick and she didn’t have any skills.

Rebeca Ferreira kept the rejection paperwork as a reminder of the day she says changed her life, propelling her to enroll in college. But some could argue that pivotal day came slightly earlier, when Ferreira corralled her young children and left her abusive husband.

An attorney Ferreira knew, a man bothered by Ferreira’s frequent bruises, paid for their trip from Massachusetts to Las Vegas. Ferreira, now 48, is returning the favor as one of the visionaries behind the Survivor Store & Training Center, a secondhand store tailored to helping domestic violence victims.

“I went through the same thing these women are,” said Ferreira, a native of the Dominican Republic. “I didn’t have a job. I didn’t speak English. I had to find my way.”

The store, at 2770 E. Flamingo Road, opened last week, with all merchandise 50 percent off through the end of this month. Inside are rows and rows of clothing, electronics, furniture, kitchen items and even high-end shoes.

“This section is very popular,” Ferreira said, pointing to a stack of novels. “People love books.”

These are the items Ferreira hopes make it financially feasible to give domestic violence victims a boost. In several months, she wants to enroll victims in a free training program at the store, where they can gain retail management skills and earn money.

Participants would learn customer service, management, computer literacy and other skills during the first three months of training through Safe Faith United, the nonprofit organization Ferreira founded in 2008 to help victims of abuse. Then they would transition to working at the Survivor Store & Training Center for hands-on experience.

Ferreira plans to meet with local retail managers for feedback about desirable skill sets as she builds the program curriculum.

“Many of our clients don’t have any skills or experience, and they want to leave their abuser,” Ferreira said. “It’s a center of opportunity for them.”

Ferreira said she believes the program will fill a needed niche in a state beset by domestic violence.

Nevada’s rate of women killed by men ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to a report issued in 2012 by the Violence Policy Center. The report used homicide data from 2010.

The store’s primary investor is also a survivor of domestic violence. Francisca Torres’ second husband once threw her from the second floor of their house, breaking her jaw.

After escaping the abusive relationship, Torres said she fell into depression but eventually sought help at Safe Faith United. Her mental recovery spurred her to invest $30,000 from the sale of her home into the secondhand store.

“Now I don’t want to die,” she said in Spanish. “I feel like I want to live.”

Ferreira and Torres know the store is a gamble, yet they’re optimistic: Boxes and bags of donated items fill three back rooms of the store, ready to replace items bought out front. They hope sales reach $3,000 a day to finance the program and allow them to offer victims further discounts.

The women see it as their way of honoring those who helped them.

“My heart is more inclined to help victims,” Ferreira said. “Money — it comes and goes. But when you change the life of someone, that’s the big pay.”

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  1. Touching story but I, personally, am sick & tired of calling toll-free "customer" service lines and having to deal with persons who have accents so thick I cannot understand them. To me, thats not "customer" service; thats the company telling me they don't really care about the question or problem I have and all they really care about is the "bottom" line. It's especially bad with the out-call centers located in India. They speak "English," but not the English I'm accustomed to hearing and we go round & round trying to communicate. Not good, in my opinion.