DRAIN — The Shoppe in Drain is decked out with all of Steffani Mast’s favorite things and embodies her dream of providing a little boutique shop for her hometown and opens an opportunity to fundraise for her family’s nonprofit organization.
Mast runs The Shoppe on weekends and with a lot of help from family between time at her full time job at the University of Oregon and helps manage the stateside operations of her and her husband’s nonprofit, Imagine Africa.
“I really wanted to open up a little place where people could get a gift or have the convenience of coming to get fresh flowers or anything like that just to have in our little town because you really do have to drive to get anything,” Mast said.
She said she wants everything in the store to feel like homemade because it seems more genuine to her.
In the very front of the store is a small table covered in dark wood carvings of people with exaggerated features, small jewelry and other trinkets displayed under artwork and an explanation of Mast and her family’s nonprofit, Imagine Africa. She and her husband started the nonprofit organization in 2008.
“If you ever have the opportunity to go to Africa, you come back and you are completely changed,” Mast said. “They are the happiest people living with, if you come from here, nothing. They live each day to survive the next. This was just an opportunity to help even more.”
The nonprofit organization runs feeding centers in Malawi, Africa and serves over 700 children and 150 elderly with meals and material needs. It also supports 73 secondary school students with school fees and uniforms and five university students with tuition fees.
“We brought back some back some baskets and we tried to buy from all the local people who try to sell stuff, that’s their way of living,” Mast said. “Everything that you see that’s from Africa, goes 100% back to Africa to feed the kids at the two feeding centers.”
Mast said the shop which was never planned became an opportunity for year-round fundraising for the nonprofit and she regularly posts on the store Facebook page about people contributed to the mission with their purchases.
“It opened up the door for people to be aware of it,” Mast said. “My husband went there in 2008 and said we’ve got to do something.”
Mast grew up in Drain and has seen the town blossom, shrivel and blossom again through the years.
“It’s just fun to bring something positive that people love to Drain,” Mast said. “I would love it if people bought all these storefronts and fixed them up. Even from us just painting the outside, people were just super excited. I just think bringing anything positive to a little town that doesn’t have much, it just gets people excited and that’s always a good thing.”
The store is open on weekends and by appointment at 305 N 1st St. in Drain. Information about Imagine Africa can be found at imagineafrica.org.