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The friendly team at the Market Place at the Academy of Mount St. John are, left to right, Josh Braziel, Jerry Pellerin, and Cody Foran. (Photo by Rita Christopher/Courier )
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You know what they say about trash and treasure: the difference is in the eye of the beholder. And a good place to put that notion to the test is The Market Place at the Academy of Mount Saint John in Deep River.
Its rooms are full of donated merchandise of every kind from a custom Italian leather sofa to complete dinnerware sets for 12; there are electric drills, electric appliances, and at least one electric guitar. There are chairs of every description: easy chairs, needlepoint chairs, lyre back chairs, and a modernistic set of two chairs and a table made out of cardboard that can bear the weight of a full-size adult. There are side tables, coffee tables, and dining room tables with enough flatware, water glasses, and wine glasses to serve a banquet.
And how did all this get to the Academy of Mount St. John? Jerry Pellerin is the answer to that. Pellerin, who taught science at the school for more than 40 years before he retired in January, now manages The Market Place. When he started Mt. Saint John was a residential school for boys who were placed there usually as a result of a court judgment, but several years ago the State of Connecticut decided it would no longer pay for residential placements in private facilities and Mount St. John transformed itself into a day program for adolescents and young men with emotional challenges.
“It’s a clinical day program for kids who just don’t fit in, and believe me there are a lot of them,” Pellerin says.
Currently, there are some 25 students, all male, who take academic classes and then can spend two hours after school in career programs from carpentry and electronics to culinary arts.
Pellerin operates The Market Place with the assistance of two students, Cody Foran and Josh Braziel, who are learning the aspects of running a business. Both young men have opted for a fifth year at the academy to acquire more vocational skills.
“I wanted to do this,” Foran said of his job at The Market Place. “That’s why I stayed another year after graduation.”
Foran and Braziel, who described themselves as on the autism spectrum, helped a recent visitor with courtesy, professionalism, and real enthusiasm for their jobs.
“I didn’t do well in public school; it was just not right for me, and I went to two other schools before Mount St. John. When I heard it was all boys, I was not sure I was going to like that,” Foran, now 20, admitted. “But I’ve liked the opportunities here, the real world focus.”
Pellerin has introduced the young men to all aspects of the business, including searching the Internet for pricing clues and staging sales rooms for maximum impact. He himself has long had an interest in antiques and has worked weekends for some 20 years with Peggy Maraschiello of River Wind Antiques in Chester running estate sales.
“The boys have done everything, staging, picking up, doing displays, learning how to move furniture,” he said.
In addition to dealing with customers and running the sales desk, Foran has created a Facebook page for The Market Place (Fb.me/amsjthemarketplace). He also on his own initiative recently organized a room devoted completely to a vast array of tools.
Braziel, also 20, said he never would have seen himself doing the kinds of jobs he has at The Market Place before he began to work there. Among those experiences was a chance to address the Deep River Zoning Board. The Market Place needed an exemption to run a commercial venture in an area zoned residential. After hearing Braziel, the board voted unanimously to grant the exemption.
The Market Place began after a successful tag sale that was a fundraiser for Mount St. John. One of the parents involved suggested making the tag sale into a permanent thrift shop, and the store opened last May in an area once used for clinical services. In fact, there is so much space that Pellerin is not worried about having too much merchandise.
“What we cannot put out now, we have room to store,” he said. “We never know what is coming in. We just keep growing.” All donations to The Market Place are tax deductible.
The Market Place is open Tuesdays to Thursdays, and although weekends are ideal for shopping, Pellerin pointed out that school runs a five-day week and his two assistants, who call him Pel or boss, are not available. However, the store will open on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to showcase the Christmas room, which has a vast assortment of glass balls, tree decorations, and Santa Claus figures, along with many small buildings that are components of the popular Christmas villages. There is even a craft book titled How to Knit Ugly Holiday Sweaters.
The profits from The Market Place are used to underwrite its ongoing operations, pay stipends to Foran and Braziel, and support the work of Mount St. John.
The Market Place at the Academy of Mount St. John
135 Kirtland Street, Deep River
Drive to the top of the hill and go right at the sign that says
The Market Place
On Facebook: Fb.me/amsjthemarketplace
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Also open Saturday, Dec. 2: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To arrange for pickup of donations, call Jerry Pellerin at
860-575-0286 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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