By REBECCA RAKOCZY, Special To The Bulletin | Published March 20, 2008
Atlanta’s St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store is getting new digs this month, and in the process, they’re transforming their present quarters into a unique grocery store for their clients.
While the St. Vincent de Paul conference offices, including the classroom space and a thrift store “clearance center,” will remain at its current location at 2050-C Chamblee Tucker Road, the new thrift store will almost double its space, moving to a renovated 8,000-square-foot building on Chamblee’s “Antique Row,” across from Chamblee City Hall, said Jane Currie, deputy executive director of St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores. The new address is 5463 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. Plans are to be up and running in the new facility by late March, she said.
Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson is enthusiastic about the thrift store’s new home across from city hall and he said he’s also proud to have St. Vincent de Paul as one of the city’s corporate partners. Although he has known about the organization for years, it was his own conversion to the Catholic faith a year ago that helped make that SVDP “connection” with the city.
“I found out more about St. Vincent de Paul; I was surprised to find out their main corporate offices are located here in the city,” he said.
When he learned that they were searching for new space, “I plugged them in with our city manager and with our business association,” Clarkson said. Now almost a year since his own baptism into the faith (as a parishioner at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta), he has enjoyed watching the building renovation take shape. “It’s a wonderful addition to our downtown. I think they provide a great service and I’m glad to see them in our city.”
The move was made to get more space for thrift store departments, plus gain more foot traffic in the popular shopping area, Currie said.
“Chamblee is growing, with lofts and new shops, and our current space is too small. We have wonderful donations and furniture, and we do not have room to display all our items,” she said
In addition to more floor space for furniture, the shop is expanding its bookstore and will be adding a religious bookstore, she said.
The clearance center, offering deeply discounted appliances, lawn and garden equipment and toys, will remain at the Chamblee Tucker Road location and be open on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Meanwhile, at the conference offices, a new concept called “client choice” will be put in place of a former food pantry, said Jim Verrecchia, SVDP director of support programs. The concept, modeled after a similar SVDP program in Madison, Wis., will be part of a new SVDP Family Enrichment Center, because it will offer a variety of classes, caseworker services and, of course, the expanded pantry.
“Instead of being given a box of food or a bag, (a one-size fits all approach) our caseworkers work with the client and assign a point system that matches their family needs,” he said.
Clients who can’t immediately be paired with a caseworker will be given food for the night, if the need is urgent, he said. “But if the caseworker is available, they’re going to interview them right away.” Interviews can often reveal other needs, he said.
When a client comes to the door seeking assistance or food, caseworkers can often learn if the client is eligible for food stamps or if they need help with their taxes. When their family needs are assessed, the client then shops with a trained volunteer to help them with their grocery list, which is tailored for their family’s tastes and needs.
“It helps the client feel a bit more normal,” Verrecchia said. “Plus, we’re not just trying to hand out food. We’re trying to see how we can respond to the total needs of the person and their family.”
“Our real goal here is to move people forward in their lives, to get them into classes and (with the new grocery option) look at things nutritionally. We plan to offer nutrition classes and have cooking demonstrations here also,” he said.
SVDP Atlanta will begin renovating the former thrift store as soon as it is vacated.
“Right now we’re working on donations of shelving, and we’re hoping to get donations of freezers and refrigerators to allow us to offer frozen items, milk, juices and cheese from local grocery stores,” he said.
The new Family Enrichment Center should be open in late spring.
To volunteer at the new thrift store or to help at SVDP, contact Jim Verrecchia at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 576-4078 or Jane Currie at email@example.com or (770) 576-4082.