St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store volunteers, board members and beneficiaries gathered Friday morning to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the store near downtown Bowling Green.
St. Vincent de Paul isn’t new to the area – it opened a volunteer-run store in 1977 and eventually had stores in Bowling Green and Russellville. But last year, the nonprofit combined its two small stores into a roughly 22,000-square-foot facility at 1589 U.S. 31-W By-Pass in Bowling Green.
“This location has been a blessing,” said Patti Gay, manager of the thrift store. “We have a lot more space (and) the community has been very generous in their donations.”
The celebration coincided with the start of a two-day discounted shopping special. At 10 a.m. Friday, shoppers were greeted with a basket full of various coupons, which were dispersed to customers within two minutes.
Toward the center of the store was a prominently displayed $75,000 check written to the Holy Spirit and St. Joseph conference food pantries. It’s symbolic of what St. Vincent de Paul hopes to give to the conferences this year after breaking a record last year with about $65,000 in donations.
The centralized location probably spurred the growth of both donations and sales, with daily averages of about 200 shoppers and at least 50 donations, according to Staci Simpson, chair of the St. Vincent de Paul board.
“We’ve been able to give (the conferences) consistently more money each month for food,” Simpson said.
The thrift store sells more than secondhand clothing, offering sporting goods, toys, jewelry, formal wear, electronics, scrapbook supplies, linens, new mattresses and box springs and more. Most items are donated by the community and then cleaned and sold at a low price.
“A lot of things you wouldn’t think we’d have, we have,” Gay said. “People donate everything.”
Proceeds from the sales benefit the two local food pantries, which also offer vouchers for people to pick up items from the store at no charge and financial assistance with utility bills.
The St. Joseph Conference pantry, 1133 Adams St. in Bowling Green, offers “bread and sweets,” food boxes and food vouchers Thursdays and every third and fourth Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. There are separate dates for voucher utility assistance, which people receive notifications for beforehand.
“Our purpose of existence is to run a food pantry,” said John T. Riley, president of the St. Joseph Conference.
The Holy Spirit Conference, known as the “little red barn” at 4754 Smallhouse Road in Bowling Green, offers food boxes Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The food boxes, which people can pick up once a month, typically contain canned goods, bread, oatmeal, cereal and other shelf-stable pantry items – and occasionally fresh produce during the growing season. They source their food from donations and from Feeding America, but they’re looking into a few additional providers, since they’ve recently been unable to purchase certain key items such as canned vegetables, peas, corn, rice, beans and cereal.
Family size determines the food box size, but they’re generally supposed to last three days. Some families come every month, while others only come about three times per year.
“They come when they need it,” Riley said.
On Saturday, St. Vincent de Paul will continue its celebration with a “fill a bag for $4” book sale and other specials.
“We’re known for ‘neighbors helping neighbors,’ so that’s what we try to do,” Gay said.