Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Vincent DePaul shifts ministry focus

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the July 5, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

The St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift stores in the Spokane area recently closed, but the executive director, Adrienne Brownlow, wants everyone in the Diocese of Spokane to know that “St. Vinnie’s” plans to maintain a strong presence and mission more in tune with the Society’s original spirit and purpose.

“There is a new face to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” Brownlow said. “Often known only for its thrift stores, the Society has closed its thrift operations and will fully devote itself to its works of charity in the community.”

Last year, the St. Vincent de Paul Society fed 48,000 Spokane families and provided other emergency services to 12,000 more. “This is the ministry that the Society is all about,” Brownlow said, “and we want the Catholic community to know us for this mission, not the dusty old store on East Trent.”

In debt, and with the old store facility in need of major improvements, the Society decided to sell its property on East Trent in Spokane. The complex had become a drain on resources that could be put to better use in other ways. “Some have questioned the closure of the thrift store,” Brownlow said, “but without a complete picture of what the Society was faced with. The store was a mission of the Society, keeping prices low to help the unfortunate. But it’s difficult to make ends meet when you’re the lowest-priced thrift store in town, and then located in a less-than-ideal retail location.”

Mike Fitzsimmons is Council President of Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“The Society and its business operations suffered from benign neglect for the last 20 years,” he said. This year, “The Board of Directors took action to avoid incurring further debt. The only responsible thing to do was to stop the financial drain of the store operations.”

Continuing the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s charity work in the community will be its Family Services Center and Food Pantry, located at 722 N. Regal. “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul helps people,” said Brownlow. “That’s what we’ve done since 1896. We feed people. We clothe people. We keep families from going homeless or without utilities or water. We offer hope and friendship to our neighbors in need.”

The fundamental mission will continue, without operating thrift stores. “Our mission is very simple: to love our friends and neighbors and to offer aid and friendship whenever and wherever we are able,” said Brownlow. “The Family Services Center has always relied on cash and food donations from the public; that part is not changing.”

For years, Brownlow said, there has been a common misconception that the thrift stores existed to fully support the costs of the food pantry. This was an ideal, but it didn’t work out that way in reality. Now, more than ever, the Society in Spokane will need financial and volunteer contributions. Dozens of people are turned away every month because the Society lacks the resources to help.

“It’s really very sad,” Brownlow said. “Rising housing, utility, transportation and medical costs have devastated those already struggling.”

The St. Vincent de Paul Society encourages support of its efforts to help those who need help the most. Contributions may be sent to: St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 2906, Spokane, WA 99220.

Food donations may be delivered to 722 N. Regal. To volunteer time, call (509) 535-2491.

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