On the outside, it's a Christmas market but behind it is an incredible story | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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On the outside, it's a Christmas market but behind it is an incredible story

Stephanie Prentice at the soon-to-be Christmas pop-up market. In two more days, she will have transformed the space into a local artisan market and more.
November 29, 2019 - 7:00 AM

In the midst of renovating a building to set up a new business with her husband, Stephanie Prentice thought everything in life was going well.

"I had no idea that there was something brewing inside that was going to knock me flat on my feet," Prentice said.

Everything was not going well, and in the fall of 2018 Prentice was admitted to a psychiatric ward and diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and acute episodic psychosis.

Just weeks before, she was working hard turning the historic building on the corner of 30 Avenue and 31 Street in Vernon into a cafe.

While Prentice never got the opportunity to open the cafe, this Saturday will see the opening of a Christmas pop-up market in the same building. And along with local artisans selling their handcrafted wares, Prentice is also using the almost month-long event to support a local homeless advocacy group as well as give people a space to talk about mental health.

The Market at 3023 opens Nov. 30 and will showcase six local artisans each day in the lead up to Christmas, as well as giving half a dozen members of Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination an opportunity to work in various roles at the craft show.

While shoppers will have a chance to purchase locally produced goods from pottery and paintings to clothing and woodwork, the market will also have a lounge area, decked out by courtesy of City Furniture and Kemper and Sons Artisan Millworks, and serving tea from Teassential in collaboration with Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination.

Comprised of formerly homeless people, Prentice hopes the organization's involvement will allow people to see past the image of a population responsible for crime, theft and discarded needles.

Every Wednesday, the market at 3023 will have two counsellors on hand for people to talk to and the Vernon mental health advocacy group Awareone Apparel will be recording their podcast.

While Prentice is combining a lot of different aspects of community into the market and the local crafts, and multiple local businesses have come forward to help out, the homeless initiative and the mental health advocacy have all come about because of Prentice's own experience with mental health.

Now 36, Prentice spent eight years working for the RCMP. She modestly says she was just "a civil servant for the Federal Government" but her job involved a one-year stint working in the RCMP Integrated Child Exploitation Unit.

"Absolutely I was disturbed and bothered by things that I learned of in that unit," Prentice said. "(But) I didn't know I had any issues."

While the RCMP had a staff psychologist on the unit offering support, Prentice didn't ask for any help.

"I thought I was fine, I led a happy life," she says.

She quit the job and headed back to school hoping to write a thesis on child exploitation, but dropped out in her third year after receiving no support from the faculty for her chosen thesis topic.

Moving on, Prentice decided to open the 108-year-old building on 30 Avenue as a cafe. She signed a lease and set about renovating it. It was then that things started to take a turn.

She saw a photo on Instagram which she says to anyone else would look like a normal photograph. To her, it looked like a signal for sex trafficking.

"I just broke," she says. "I was basically in a dream that turned into a nightmare... I was in another realm, I was here but I wasn't here."

Ultimately Prentice was diagnosed and spent one month in a psychiatric ward, followed by three weeks transitioning to going home.

From there she enrolled in a course at the Vernon Community Arts Centre and "fell in love" with pottery, finding it very cathartic.

"There's something about the creative process... taking you out of your normal environment and consuming your focus," she said.

She also jokes "I'm also a very big arts and crafts nerd."

It was getting involved at the arts centre that led her to discover the wealth of artisans in the region, producing handcrafted works for a living.

Over the 24 days the pop-up market takes place, around 35 artisans will get to showcase their goods, paying just $25 a day for a table.

Prentice hopes by sharing her story and setting up the Market at 3023 she can in some way achieve a variety of things.

"Even if it's just an outlet for someone to speak about their experience and not feel any shame or stigma around that, I think it's really beneficial."

The Market at 3023 takes place at 3023 30 Avenue, Vernon, and opens at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. The market will run daily until Christmas Eve. For more information and opening hours go here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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