At a used bookstore in Bayside, Queens, there is more on offer than just books.
The store, Turn the Page Again, works with people with a mental health diagnosis, training them in valuable job skills and offering them a caring, supportive environment where they are nurtured as people.
Nina Cassius, the bookstore’s assistant manager, has lived with a chronic form of depression that at one point led to self-harm, hospitalization, and medication.
Joining the bookstore allowed her to turn a new page in her life, literally.
“I liked coming to work, I liked having some money in my pocket, I liked being, you know, I don’t want to say valuable, but kind of having a bit of worth,” she told Pix 11.
Cassius started as a regular employee and worked her way up. She’s also training to be a florist because she likes working with plants.
Another one of her hobbies is on display in the shop as well—her artwork. The shop’s in-store art show, featuring Cassius and one other artist, was held on June 20, according to the store’s website.
The store opened eight years ago, and is supported by the not-for-profit Transitional Services for New York Inc. (TSINY).
The books are all donated, and nothing costs more than $5.
Turn the Page Again’s founder, Larry Grubler, said the store also helps to destigmatize mental illness, and with every customer who walks through the door, he says they’re accomplishing their mission.
Grubler doesn’t see the store as a final destination for its employees, however, but more of a stepping stone to other jobs or educational pursuits. He says it employs people with mental health issues—many of whom have not had a formal job—and prepares them to enter the workforce or move on for more training.
For Cassius, it’s the caring nature of the staff and her coworkers that has made all the difference.
“It’s a really hard world. I think we just need to be more friendly to each other,” she said.