Business Journal –
Thursday, OCTOBER 31, 2019
WARREN – The St. Vincent de Paul society thrift store is located in an unassuming building on a drab stretch of road. But inside, it’s a bright and dignified place where those in need can find well-kept furniture, clothing and other household goods in attractive showrooms.
It wasn’t always that way.
“There are no words,” is what Darlene Jones, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul Trumbull, said when asked to describe conditions before a recent renovation.
“The ceiling leaked and the tiles were wet and falling down,” she said. “It was dark, crowded and oppressive. Those who remember what it used to look like just say ‘Wow!’ when they see it now.”
Jones was speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the St. Vincent de Paul store, 2415 Niles Road here, at which the renovations were unveiled.
The $16,000 project was funded by a $10,000 gift from an anonymous donor and monies set aside by the society. The building has close to 6,000 square feet and is divided into a maze-like string of large rooms. The renovations include a new point of sale system, plus a new ceiling and overhead lighting, with a fresh coat of paint on all walls.
“Regardless of your socioeconomic place, people should have somewhere they can shop that is nice, and that was our goal,” said Jones. “Our mission is to treat people with dignity and respect.”
All proceeds from the store fund the adjacent SVDP society dining hall, she said.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the store’s makeover is that the rooms have been reorganized by type of merchandise and decluttered with easily navigable aisles.
The building is bursting with donated merchandise and the reorganization also freed up much-needed space. The centerpiece of the new-look store is a large and attractively arranged furniture showroom that now offers, among other things, factory-fresh bedding by Chicago Mattress Co.
The public can purchase complete bed sets – mattress, box springs, frame – at very reasonable prices: $199 for a twin, $217 for a full, $270 for a queen and $400 for a king.
“The sleep center is one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done,” said Jones. “There was nowhere to get reasonably priced bedding before this.”
Jones said that bedding is an often-overlooked but expensive item for social agencies. People who are impoverished or trying to start life anew, such as those coming out of jail or drug rehabs, have difficulty finding beds they can afford.
Danilo Comichista, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Trumbull, led a tour of the facility, pointing out improvements.
“This place is bigger than it looks,” he said. “We needed more space but we re-organized it to get everything in and looking great.”
The three-building complex, which includes a dining hall and administrative buildings, has just four employees: Comichista, Jones and two men who pick up and drop donations.The kitchen and store are run by volunteers.
Comichista and Jones both said that expansion is needed and inevitable. At least 4,000 square feet needs to be added to the campus, said Jones.
In the planning phase is a capital campaign that would raise money to either expand existing buildings or construct a new one on land the society owns directly behind the dining hall.
“We feed homecooked meals to 150 people six days a week but we only have seating for 44,” said Jones. Lines form out the door, she said, which can be a challenge during the winter.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an association of Catholic laymen and women who serve the underprivileged. In addition to a dining hall and thrift store, its services include voucher programs that assist with rent and utility programs.
For information about services or volunteer opportunities, contact Jones at 234-223-2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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