AUTHOR: Cathy Brown
If you haven’t noticed, Route 150 between State College and Bellefonte has become quite the thrifters row. While CentrePeace has been in the same approximate location for years, both non-profit and for-profit resale shops have sprouted. Everyone loves the thrill of the hunt and a great find. I believe “thrifters row” started with CentrePeace.
CentrePeace was established in 1995 by Marie Hamilton. Marie, in short, is Restorative Justice royalty in Centre County and known to many for her work across PA. Marie began fighting for the rights of the incarcerated long before it was “fashionable” and today after many years, she still quietly goes about her work. As the new incoming Executive Director for CentrePeace in 2019, one of the first things I did was read a book written about Marie titled “Grace Goes to Prison. Grace is Marie’s first name and to meet her is to understand how perfectly her name suits her.
Marie was introduced to life inside a prison when she was coordinating work for a volunteer through the Volunteer Action Center in 1975. A tour of Rockview lead her to what became her life’s passion…working not just to make life better for those incarcerated, but to tirelessly fight for a better way of rehabilitating individuals using love and compassion as opposed to harsh, long term sentences, all based on her faith and Christian upbringing. Marie began absorbing everything she could from anyone and everyone involved in the criminal justice system including staff, workers, and those incarcerated. She traveled to Ohio to see a rehabilitative program that taught job skills by essentially taking cast-offs and items destined for the junkyard and restoring them for resale, teaching valuable job skills such as carpentry, electrical skills, upholstery, and more. She tucked that information away until 1995 when she was ready to launch her own non-profit. If they were successful, the selling of refurbished items could fund the mission of the organization. CentrePeace was launched in September of 1995 and while no doubt there have been trying times, CentrePeace continues to grow and thrive.
Today, CentrePeace continues to teach job skills to our returning citizens along with operating multiple programs to benefit our local returning citizens. The store is busier than ever with spring bringing the return of field sales and the addition of vintage flea markets. CentrePeace continues to rely solely on items donated by the public just as we did in 1995. And, just like in 1995, an amazing woman named Marie Hamilton is still working to better the lives of the incarcerated. Thank you, Marie.