Wilton Manors

Wilton Manors Nonprofit Helps LGBTQ+ Youth Land First Jobs

The Wilton Collective hires teens in the LGBTQ+ community, those that might be on the autism spectrum, or really anyone that might struggle to fit in

NBC Universal, Inc.

When you walk down the strip in Wilton Manors, you’ve probably noticed the massive thrift store with a colorful butterfly mural on one of its walls.

What’s inside is much more than just a store selling pre-owned goods.

Wilton Collective is a non-profit youth work program giving teens in the LGBTQ+ community their first jobs.

Its founder, Julian Cavazos, says it’s meant to be a safe space teens that are ready to enter the workforce but don’t feel safe or comfortable elsewhere because of their identity.

Gage Sheffield is the youth manager and oversees all other teenagers working at the shop.

“Every time I walk into work, I know I’m going to be absolutely fine here,” said Sheffield. “I know that the people that come here, the people that work with us, they’re just the kindest people.”

Cavazos told NBC 6 he started this work program to give today’s teens opportunities he did not have when he was growing up and wanted to start working.

“I recall being 15 years old and starting my first job and feeling more like I was alone because there was nobody like me,” he said.

Now, he leads by example. He hires teens in the LGBTQ+ community, those that might be on the autism spectrum, or really anyone that might struggle to fit in. They’ve been doing so for the past two and a half years.

“From the top position down, see themselves,” he added.

Recently, some people believe that representation has been challenged by legislation.

Spaces like Wilton Collective are becoming increasingly important.

“Not only where they can say gay, but they can be their true authentic self in the workspace,” said Cavazos.

This initiative also gives a chance for adults in this community to become mentors and learn from the youth they guide.

Kyle Turner is a volunteer with the organization and says kids in the LGBTQ+ community must be protected.

“So that they can have the opportunity to become an adult without some of the things they have to battle,” he said.

In the meantime, Sheffield, who has been working at the store for about a year, says he absolutely loves it there.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like working anywhere else,” he said.

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