March 23, 2018 // Special
St. Vincent de Paul Society still growing in South Bend
At the end of 2017, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County closed the doors of its two thrift stores in Michiana, leaving some to wonder if the organization was still in operation. However, although the thrift stores were the main face of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the area, the organization has provided services in many behind-the-scenes ways over the past 114 years and continues to do so today.
After years of declining sales, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County formed a strategic alliance with Goodwill Industries of Michiana. Employees from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores were offered positions at Goodwill similar to the ones they had held at the St. Vincent de Paul stores, and clients of St. Vincent de Paul Society programs are able to use their vouchers at Goodwill stores for clothing and furniture. Officials with the St. Vincent de Paul Society emphasized that the merger was not one of the whole organization, just of the thrift stores, and that it’s simply a way to better serve the community.
In a news release, St. Vincent de Paul Society Executive Director Anne Hosinski Watson said, “SVDP has always considered Goodwill an ally, not a competitor. We are excited about strengthening our ties to make a better difference in our community.”
The St. Vincent de Paul Center off Niles Avenue in South Bend, which serves as headquarters for the society’s operations, will remain open. This is where all volunteers and services are coordinated, but also the first point of interaction for most clients.
“When a family comes to the St. Vincent de Paul Center, they walk into a place of hope, community and love,” said Hosinski Watson. The space itself is warm and inviting, with comfortable furniture, decorated walls, and coffee and doughnuts. The volunteers are welcoming to all people of all religions and life circumstances.
Without the responsibility of operating thrift stores, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County can focus on its other ministries that offer basic necessities for survival, stability and sufficiency to those in need.
Over 500 volunteers, along with the help of 18 local parishes, serve more than 66,000 people in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties annually. Food, clothing, furniture and housing assistance are provided to clients through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, via personal care that can include an in-home visit or building a relationship with a local parish. There is also a walk-in food pantry open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Clients are given the tools to achieve stability and sufficiency through resume building, job searches, and classes to aid in breaking the cycle of institutional poverty.
Hosinski Watson said she is looking forward to what this alliance will bring, and feels that this is the best way the organization can serve the community. The St. Vincent de Paul Society will be able to refer clients to Goodwill in the same way they had been referred to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store previously; and Goodwill will refer those in need of further services to St. Vincent de Paul.
Hosinski Watson invites members of the community to see its operations in person at the St. Vincent de Paul Center at 520 Crescent Ave., South Bend, any time during normal business hours to see the work that is being done. New volunteers are always being accepted, and financial donations to assist with the St. Vincent de Paul Society mission can be made at the center or through a participating parish. Clothing and furniture donations can be made to Goodwill.
Contact 574-234-6000 with questions or to request assistance through one of the St. Vincent de Paul Society programs.
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