Ready for Good Furnishings prepares at-risk youth for job market

three boys assemble furniture

Youth work together to assemble furniture at Ready for Good. // Credit Ready for Good Co.

Ready for Good Furnishings, a nonprofit furniture store in Lawrence, KS, is staffed by youth preparing to transition out of foster care or the juvenile justice system. The job provides an environment for fostering positive working relationships with adult mentors as well as an opportunity to work together with fellow young people.

“All youth have to make the difficult transition to adulthood. Adulthood isn’t easy in our society,” says Ready for Good’s founder, Dr. Addison Shockley. “There’s a lot of complexity to being a modern adult. There’s a lot of responsibility. So, we’re here to help. We want to give them that early work experience that’s probably their first job and help get them to be exposed to expectations in a workplace setting. And, then try to be friendly, and become mentors and be positive, trusted adults in their lives, and be a positive, fun place to work.”

Ready for Good is celebrating its first anniversary this month.

“We started in April 2022 with grant funding from the Kansas Department of Corrections/Juvenile Services,” says Shockley. “There was a community crime prevention grant that sought to fund programs that would hire youth who are at risk of juvenile justice system involvement, juvenile delinquency, and victimization. [The grant] would serve youth in those categories through jobs and workforce development because there’s evidence that skill building and skills training and mentorship reduce the likelihood that youth will engage in criminal behavior and high-risk behavior and have symptoms like depression and anxiety.”

Shockley’s parents owned and operated a chain of Kansas City-based furniture and clothing consignment stores called Mary Margaret’s, so he credits his family for the business smarts he needed to start up Ready for Good. His passion for helping young people and his Ph.D. in Communications prepared him for working hands-on with at-risk youth through the furniture store. The store has worked with 32 youths so far in its first year of operation.

“I saw that grant opportunity in my email one day that somebody had forwarded to me who knew that I was dreaming up ideas related to creating work opportunities for youth. And I said, Oh, that’s a good fit. So I applied for the grant, and we got it,” says Shockley.

Ready for Good sees itself as a job readiness program, preparing the youth who work there to proceed into the workforce after completing their time at the furniture store. Each shift, the youth staff work one-on-one with an adult mentor to ensure each hire receives plenty of feedback and individual interaction. Youth staff work in departments such as assembly, merchandising, delivery errands, and customer service.

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Credit Ready for Good Co.

“We’re going to teach slowly and intentionally,” says Shockey. “We have a 22-lesson curriculum that we layer on this on-the-job training. That’s more insights about what employers are looking for that they can then take home with them and think about. We also do resume drafts and then talk about interviewing and get them to think ahead like this is a job readiness program. It’s not a permanent job. It’s more like a transitional job. So, let’s get you thinking early about where you are going to try to apply when you leave here and how are you going to show up to that interview?”

Community volunteers are welcome to come help out at the store. A simple volunteer application can be found on the Ready for Good Furnishings website.

Otherwise, Shockley says the best way the community can help is to stop in and engage the youth working at the store in a conversation.

“What’s really encouraging to the youth is social interaction,” Shockley says. “Come by, and when you see youth working here, take a moment to talk to them. This is a great opportunity to get youth in the community who need to interact with positive adults to kind of gain some of those social skills.”

Shockley extends his gratitude to the Lawrence community for their support over the past year and is excited to see how the business grows in the future. Recently, the store received an expansion, including a new loading dock, which will help the team in its mission to provide accessible jobs to youth in need.

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