Society of St. Vincent de Paul sells blasts from the past including chesterfields, chairs, clothes
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Where can you buy three romantic comedy DVDs for Mom, the volume of the letter "S" of the Encyclopedia Britannica for Dad, and a CD featuring your favourite '80s band, all for $10? Welcome to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) thrift stores, one of the best shopping bargains in the Lower Mainland.
"The money that we make from selling items at the thrift stores goes to help our other works," said Sheila Coutu, director of store operations. "Last year we gave out over 3,000 bags of food at the Main Street store, and we send a truck to Main and Hastings three times a week with sandwiches and coffee."
The SSVP thrift stores are located at 2743 Main St. (at 12th Ave.) and 1738 E. Hastings St. (near Commercial Dr.) Both locations are open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
She clarified that in the Vancouver area, the SSVP only has three paid employees, with the vast majority of money going to fund projects to curb homelessness.
The thrift stores have a two-way street policy: not only can you buy items, but donations are welcomed as well.
"Toaster ovens, TVs, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, books, clothes, eyeglasses, and furniture can be donated," pointed out Rebecca Talusan, manager of the Main Street store.
Downsizers beware: the stores will not accept everything gathering dust at the bottom of your closet. Talusan stressed junk, broken pieces of furniture, and mothballed clothes would not be accepted, and electronic items have to be in good working order, since the volunteers do not restore them.
The society is a lay Catholic organization whose mission is to live the Gospel message by serving the poor with love and respect. Vincentian volunteers do not have to be Catholic.
The society was originally founded as the Conference of Charity by Blessed Antoine-Frederic Ozanam along with fellow French university students in 1833 to serve the Paris slums. In 1997 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
"We have about 500 members here in British Columbia, in all five dioceses," responded Nora Criss, president of the B.C. and Yukon SSVP regional council. "The reason why we all do this is because our faith declares (we have) to help the needy."
She stressed that while the SSVP is autonomous from the Church, the society does "alleviate the burden on the Church itself."
Tom O'Flynn, a Vincentian since 1954, explained that the spirituality of the lay organization first attracted him, since if "we can't see Christ in the poor, then we can't really be a good member of the society." His statement was echoed by both Coutu and Criss.
O'Flynn has grand expansion plans for the thrift stores. Eventually the long-time member would like to add another floor to the Main Street store for outreach programs, and an entirely new store.
Information about donating items to the SSVP thrift stores is available at 604-873-1303.