By Charles Mombo
Meet Mireya Fouché. Mireya is a first-generation Mexican-American mother to her Haitian-Mexican son, community leader, writer, builder and creative. Born and raised in Chicago and moved around – from Pilsen to the old Lakeview, and then to Uptown and now, she is finally digging roots in Rogers Park.
With a passion for people, fashion and business, Mireya moved to Los Angeles and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. During her time as a student in Los Angeles she experienced 6 months of homelessness. This experience led her to leave her corporate LA fashion industry world. She returned to Chicago, launched One Heart One Soul at the age of 27, and then co-launched Monarch Thrift Shop in 2015. With notable awards from the Illinois Department of Corrections and Dr. King Drum Major Award, her greatest reward is seeing visions come alive and positively impact the lives of others.
How does One Heart One Soul interface with the Avondale’s Monarch Thrift Shop?
Innovative synergy that focuses on people over profit. As the founder of One Heart One Soul and the Co-Executive Director of Monarch Thrift Shop, there was a prime opportunity to increase impact on the work of both organizations. Through building and growing strong partnerships, the new 4,000 square feet space in the Avondale community will house an art exhibition space for youth in homelessness to experience & sell their artwork (at no profit to either organization), the RiseUp retail certification classroom investing in cohorts of youth in homelessness/at-risk of homelessness and 3,000 square foot of award-winning shopping space.
What are some of the challenges faced by your nonprofit in the age of COVID-
Some of the greatest challenges One Heart One Soul faced was not being able to hold in-person workshops in the shelters and drop-in centers. As the traveling art program since 2010, pivoting to the virtual world into spaces that weren’t virtually available was heartbreaking. That led us to create Mental Care Kits – art supplies, PPE, snacks and gifts – that were delivered to sites for several months. This was a subtle reminder to youth in homelessness that we have not forgotten them and will continue to reach them by any means necessary.
One of the greatest challenges Monarch Thrift Shop faced, as a retail space, was closing the physical business for months. We pivoted and quickly launched (then grew) our online store which now houses inventory completely separate than our in-store inventory. As a way to keep sales and interaction alive, we traveled into the store on a weekly basis to merchandise the front window mimicking “The Price is Right ” where customers can see prices of products and purchase via text. It became a thing to do – a time to get away when we couldn’t really leave – in the area.
What motivates you?
I’m a lover of life, you’d be surprised how much energy and motivation I find from a cup of coffee and an amazing playlist!
But what keeps me going in this field are results; hearing customers share their great experience, seeing students graduate from our retail program, be employed then housed, seeing individuals who were with us through court mandates return to volunteer their time just because. These are the reasons I haven’t complained about a Monday in 11 years!
Who’s the most influential person in your life?
My 6-year-old son who is confident in everything he does.
What do you like about Hyde Park?
How long can my list be? What I love about Hyde Park is its powerful history, beautiful landmarks, richness of people, small businesses and its overall existence!