Sowing the Seeds of Hope
Chelsae & Glenda Thompson
Words Emily Penn
Photography Tim Sugden
M Seed Thrift Store is not your average second-hand store. It was started with a much bigger mission in mind – to help those with addiction. Founders Jeff and Glenda Thompson started M Seed in 2011 after the couple came out on the other side of their daughter Chelsae’s drug addiction and treatment. After realizing that addiction touched many people in their life and community, they took action and M Seed Thrift Store and Outreach was born.
In this interview, Chelsae and Glenda tell us all about the meaning of M Seed and how they’re making a big impact in the community of addiction and recovery. M Seed was the recipient of the 2018 Clackamas County Impact Award.
Can you tell our readers a bit of your history with addiction? What led you to choose the dangerous path?
Chelsae: I am now six years clean of heroin and meth. After trauma in my life that occurred, I found myself choosing instant gratification to numb the pain.
Was there a moment when you felt everything changed? Did you have an epiphany that led you seek help and recovery?
Chelsae: Yes, one moment in particular. My dealer and I were walking towards the woods, knowing we were going to the restroom to get high. All of a sudden, while I was walking – time froze and I literally saw two paths I could take. I knew I had to choose – was I going right or left? I went right, and I laid down on an abandoned truck bed and cried out to God and my dealer left. The following week was going to be my birthday and I knew I needed to reach out to my mom for help because I wanted my next year to be different than my last year.
Glenda, we’d love to hear your story behind the founding of M Seed Outreach and Thrift Store.
Glenda: We started because our daughter struggled with heroin and meth addiction. At first, we were relieved when we learned our health insurance would cover 30 days of inpatient treatment with follow-up outpatient programs, but our relief quickly left after she completed her 30-day inpatient and we realized she had more knowledge about drugs and contacts than ever before. We knew we needed to educate ourselves if we wanted to help our daughter. We started researching and learning as much as we could about the drug epidemic and what help was available.
My husband and I were both working full time jobs. I had been in real estate for nearly 20 years. My husband works for Portland Public Schools. We had no idea how to handle addiction. We both had sleepless nights and knew we wanted to do something to help. We had an idea and stepped out in faith and now we have been operating for over 7 years.
We have never taken a paycheck for what we do. We are volunteers. My husband continues to work for Portland Public Schools. I retired from real estate after the first year because the demand to help people was so great, it needed all of my attention.
Chelsae, tell us about your involvement with M Seed. Does it feel good to participate in something your parents helped to create?
Chelsae: I am the co-founder of M Seed Outreach. It feels good to be a part of something larger than ourselves and to be a part of a family that doesn’t serve people only between 9-5. It’s a lifestyle.
Now you have started a business called Pardon. What’s that all about?
Chelsae: Pardon is focused on yoga, health and encouragement.
Glenda, what is Chelsae’s role in M Seed now? And please tell us more about Pardon!
Glenda: Chelsae is an advocate and a voice of encouragement to people who want to see change in their own lives or the lives of others. She has a desire to share her story and message and does so daily with people she comes in contact with, but also through public speaking at different meetings and engagements. She was recently interviewed on KPTV about M Seed Thrift Store and Outreach. She is an entrepreneur and has the heart of a philanthropist. She is currently creating a business called “Pardon”. She wants to create a brand that encourages and motivates others to “pardon” – to let go and move forward. She is doing this through manufacturing her own yoga mats, essential oils and other items. She donates 25% of all profits to M Seed Outreach. She hopes to encourage other business owners to give back. Chelsae is very proactive, helping others in the community. She has been clean six years and enjoys life to the fullest.
Explain how the Thrift Store plays into the larger mission of M Seed.
Glenda: We raise money through M Seed Thrift Store, so we can help people who struggle with addiction into 12-month programs. We are a nonprofit 501-C3. Everything is donated, and we give tax deductible receipts. But M Seed Thrift Store is more than just that – we are a place where community connects, people feel safe, loved and never judged. People come in to talk and feel encouraged. It’s a place for people to rest from the hustle and bustle of life. We have customers come in that need a peaceful place and also customers that have mentioned they have depression and can’t go on some days, but they remember we’re in the community to make them smile. We are a place of hope and rest.
The Thrift Store is run by volunteers. Are these volunteers people from your community or people who you’ve helped put through treatment programs?
Glenda: Our volunteers are caring people in the community who want to see a change in the lives of people who are hurting. Volunteers are put on the schedule and show up the same day and time weekly. Some work one or two days a week. We have volunteers that have been with us since we have been opened. We have married couples that volunteer, single men and women, people of all ages from 12 to 85.
Someone comes to you looking for help to overcome an addiction. What happens from there? What does the process look like for them?
Glenda: This is what we do…. Start with talking and sharing. Make phone calls and locate an out of state program that has an opening. Different programs have different requirements – some require written applications, others are phone interviews. We help them pack or shop for the things they need such as clothing, toiletries, bedding etc. (most people come to us with nothing or very little). We purchase the transportation and escort them to the program. Then we stay in touch and encourage them along their journey. It all happens very quickly. The key is that the person is WILLING and READY! We also help financially support the programs we take people to.
Do you ever see yourself opening your own treatment facility?
Glenda: We would like to offer transitional housing, which would be available after they complete the 12-month program. We would offer 6-month housing and during that time volunteers would work with them in the housing facility. In order to stay in housing, they would need to develop a resume, fill out job applications, take financial classes on budgeting and building credit, and take cooking and exercise classes. The volunteers would help teach interview skills, help locate job opportunities, and provide transportation to interviews. We would also invite successful guest speakers from the community to encourage, motivate and educate.
This 6-month period gives a person 6 more months of accountability. Helping them each step but not letting them run until they have a solid foundation. Once they are employed and start receiving a paycheck they would apply what they learned regarding budgeting to pay any bills they may have and then we would hold onto the balance of their money, so that when they are ready to leave in 6 months they’ll have the money to rent or maybe even purchase a home. It is our vision to help them get completely up on their feet and contribute to society.
We believe this is a very important part of the equation to completely move forward in life. Our own daughter had us to help her with navigating health, nutrition, finances, etc. For most of the people we help, they have no one to go back to and so we want to be there for them the same way we were for our daughter.
We currently do not have the funds or building for this next phase and if anyone would like to donate a building for us to operate out of or the funds to build that would be amazing. We believe all things are possible.
It’s pretty amazing that you’re funded entirely by donations. Do you find this is a cause people feel strongly about?
Glenda: It seems everyone knows someone who is struggling or has struggled with drugs and/or alcohol. We never get used to how many people enter our thrift store every day and ask for help or tell us their story. Donating brings people together by passing on something to someone else with good intention. People love knowing their items are helping a larger picture than themselves.
Tell us the meaning behind the name “M Seed”.
Glenda: M Seed is short for Mustard Seed. Mustard seeds are very small and grow into a huge tree and if you have faith or hope the size of a mustard seed then that’s all you need. A lot of times that’s all someone has left when they come to us. They are barely hanging on. When we share with them our story or they meet my daughter, who went through one of these programs and is now happy, healthy and successful, then you can see the change in their eyes already start to take place and their faith begins to grow.
Chelsae: If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can see miracles in your life. We are in the community to plant a seed and be a safe place. Here are a couple scriptures. The first one is on all our tags.
Matthew 17:20 “And He said to them, ‘Because of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, ‘and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you’.
Mark 4:30-32 “And He said, ‘How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade’.”
We are a place in the community that everyone is accepted and loved.
Chelsae, is there a spiritual component to your current outlook and recovery? How does that play into your work in helping others?
Chelsae: The spiritual component I live by is love. I remember using drugs in a disgusting bathroom and feeling this pure heavenly presence come in and I thought… God loves me at my worst and that’s what changed me.
What is the future of M Seed?
Glenda: We would love to offer 6-month transitional housing with classes. We will continue to help the next person who asks. We want to show grace and love to the hurting, the way my own daughter received unconditional grace and love.
What is the most rewarding part of helping others to come through their struggles with addiction?
Chelsae: To see someone happy and healthy and their family restored.
In what ways can our readers get involved and help make a difference for those struggling with addiction?
Chelsae: In a community everyone plays a different role. At this time, we do need a new vehicle to transport donations, as well as people, to recovery.
M Seed Outreach and Thrift Store
124A Molalla Ave.
Oregon City, OR 97045
Open: Monday – Saturday
11am – 9pm, closed Sundays