SRU alumna brings 'angel blessings' to community with nonprofit clothing boutique
Patti Bicehouse, proprietor of Our Angels Attic, opened a nonprofit clothing boutique in Slippery Rock, July 7. She first dreamed of opening a community-based store that offers job training for people with disabilities when she was a special education major at Slippery Rock University in the early 1990s.
July 22, 2019
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Patti Bicehouse, a 1992 Slippery Rock University graduate and proprietor of Our Angels Attic, routinely tells customers and visitors to the shop, "Angel blessings to you."
The exchange isn't some branding protocol handed down from a corporate headquarters, it's just one way Bicehouse hopes to return the blessings Our Angels Attic has received from the community. The community-based, nonprofit organization, run completely by volunteers provides quality clothing at low prices and job training for people with disabilities.
"I just love Slippery Rock and the people here; the kindness that has poured out of them is way beyond what I expected or imagined," Bicehouse said. "Just from the clothing donations alone, we are overwhelmed ... in a good way; we are overwhelmed with joy."
Prominently located among Slippery Rock's storefronts at 140A S. Main St., the interior of Our Angels Attic features a vintage, rustic motif with angel decorations in each of the store's five rooms. Gently used donated clothing and home decor is sold at such low prices that it is Bicehouse's goal that a customer could purchase an entire outfit for $10.
The shop opened July 7, only a few weeks after Bicehouse made the first rent payment on the space, but the idea to have a clothing store that supports the community goes back to an SRU classroom nearly three decades earlier.
Bicehouse, who graduated with a degree in special education, recalled a moment when her professor, Bob Berner, asked students to select an instrument and then dance to the music they created. Despite her apprehension to participate, Bicehouse picked up a tambourine and boldly moved about the room. Since that day, Bicehouse has never been afraid to be herself or to pursue her passions.
After a career working with individuals who have intellectual or developmental disabilities at The Arc of Butler County and for a residential program in Florida, Bicehouse decided it was time to open Our Angels Attic.
"Now (that my kids, Grace and Eli) are out on their own, it's time for me to look at doing what I felt I needed to do -- this is it," Bicehouse said. "God gives us all gifts and talents and with me He planted a seed of great compassion for those who have disabilities and who need maybe a different kind of encouragement or patience."
The reason she chose Slippery Rock as the place to open Our Angels Attic goes beyond her affinity for the quaintness of the town or her family's ties to the University. Bicehouse's husband, Vaughn, is an SRU assistant professor of special education while Grace is a 2019 graduate with a degree in communication.
"I'd love to partner with SRU students and faculty," Bicehouse said. "(SRU) is a great school that offers amazing programs and degrees, especially with the new special education doctoral degree."
SRU became the first institution in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education to offer a Doctor of Education in Special Education in January 2015.
The University also provides programming for the same population that Bicehouse is looking to support, including the Transition Achievement Program, which, through the adapted physical activity program, provides job training, independent living, physical activity and nutrition education experiences to high school students with disabilities.
Three of the 15 volunteers at Our Angels Attic have some type of disability. Bicehouse is also partnering with Merakey Allegheny Valley School and the Slippery Rock Area School District to place volunteers with intellectual or developmental disabilities at the store, in hopes that they develop vocational skills to gain employment away from the shop. MAVS, a regional nonprofit organization with a location in Slippery Rock, will provide four volunteers one day per week, and SRASD will place about three volunteers twice per week during the school year.
Bicehouse accepts most all clothing donations, which she estimates at about 15 submissions per week from community members. Clothing that does not meet the standards to be sold in the store is distributed to families in need through other community partners, including Jeff Galmarini, owner of the Slippery Rock Giant Eagle, who has collection bins at his store and maintains connections with various community nonprofit organizations.
People interested in donating, volunteering or shopping can visit the store from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Monetary donations are also accepted through www.ourangelsattic.org. All money will go toward paying rent, utilities and to fund additional programming that Bicehouse hopes to offer including books for a literacy club; tickets to group outings such as plays and concerts; art supplies for therapy; community integration projects and beautification; and guest speakers.
For more information, contact Bicehouse at 585.360.3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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