Give your heart to a horse

Marla Skinner, left, and Vicky Zoerb are co-chairwomen of TROT's Hearts & Horses fundraiser.


If the summer heat has you housebound, now may be the ideal time to de-clutter. Whether you clean out your closet, sort through the laundry room or finally sweep through that garage, there's a place to donate your extra stuff while contributing to a good cause: CODAC Closet-Thrift & Gift.

The new store, which opened June 5 at 3550 N. First Ave., has three goals: to train CODAC Behavioral Health Services clients in retail skills, customer service and other job skills; to raise money for the nonprofit organization; and to provide incentive in treatment-plan goals for clients recovering from mental illness or addiction.

Since 1970, CODAC has been providing support for teens and adults with substance-abuse disorders and mental challenges ranging from depression, anxiety and relationship troubles to serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

The organization serves about 12,000 clients a year through education and prevention programs, outpatient services, two residential treatment centers and 10 programs that provide safe housing for vulnerable individuals.

CODAC Closet is affiliated with CODAC's Center for Recovery and Independence. The center provides life and vocational skills ranging from GED instruction and computer literacy to health and wellness, and offers individual and group support and other services, said Inge Detweiler, CODAC's director of program development.

"We are in the business of assisting folks with improving quality of life and promoting recovery and independence. We have found that in particular, the concept of independence is something that makes the center unique," she said.

"Recovery and independence is self-defined. It is different for everyone, and we tailor our services to the needs of the individuals with whom we work."

Camelia Marvel, supervisor of the Center for Recovery and Independence, said that individualized, flexible approach has proven successful for clients in recovery. CODAC's Retail Training Program is designed to span three months, depending on experience, and provides an entry-level opportunity that is not overwhelming and evolves with the member's needs.

"The research is very clear that when any person is engaged in meaningful activity, whatever it may be, they are more likely to fare better and be healthier and happier and more contented," Marvel said. "The center and the offshoot of the store itself are a continuance of the delivery of services for these clients."

While clients can come away with skills in merchandising, presentation, marketing and cashiering, no interest in retail is necessary to gain valuable experience, said Luz Marina Villarreal, manager of the CODAC Closet. Clients also develop life skills including professional behavior and effective communication with supervisors, colleagues and the public.

"We are showing them how to present themselves to the public, how to maintain a positive attitude at all times, and how to be happy with who they are. This is a holistic vocational center - we are not just teaching them how to run a store," Villarreal said.

Brenda Rio, 20, is the first retail trainee to enroll in the program. She started several weeks ago and has worked at sorting, washing and pricing clothing, along with helping customers and cashiering. She hopes to eventually make a career in retail.

"I like it a lot. I have learned some good stuff about having a good attitude and helping people out and just being polite," Rio said.

As a fashionista who loves high heels and the color blue, Rio said she particularly enjoys unpacking and sorting items that come into the store so she can pick out clothes for herself. All CODAC clients in a treatment program for mental-health or substance-abuse disorders can participate in the "CODAC Cash" program, which provides gift cards to the CODAC Closet when they meet goals of their treatment plans.

"It is a great opportunity for them to get the things they need as they reach their goals," Detweiler said.

How you can help

• What: CODAC Closet-Thrift & Gift

• Where: 3550 N. First Ave., Suite 100

• Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

• Donate: CODAC Closet accepts donations of new and gently used clothing, jewelry, accessories, household goods, shoes, toys, books, furniture, artwork and art supplies, lawn and garden supplies, small appliances and baby items. Donations of diapers are also welcome.

• Info: Go to or call 202-1920

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at