A NEW DIRECTION
To the community,
I wanted to give an update on our Thrift Store and our ministry going forward. It is with a certain amount of sadness, but also optimism, that I am announcing our Thrift Store will not be reopening. I'd like to share some of our reasoning below.
First, we are foremost a ministry dedicated to the needs of the poor. Our mission is to give priority to the poorest of the poor and to those who are most rejected by society. I love those words because they are specific in who we serve, but not in how. We will always help the poor where their needs are today while working hard to ensure that what we are doing is effective. Recently, in evaluating how our Thrift Store fits into that mission, it became apparent that we could accomplish the same goals, and even accomplish them better, without a retail store.
Next, we strive to be a nimble organization. We take pride in our ability to pivot quickly to a changing world. For example, when COVID -19 shut down our community, we quickly realized that many on the streets had no access to food on the weekends, showers, or clothing. In just a few weeks, we were able to increase our food ministry, expand our voucher program, and open up the showers at the old Garfield Elementary School building. I don't say these things to brag, but to say that we were able to make those changes because we have made it a priority to stay agile. As we looked at the horizon for our retail store post-COVID-19, we saw a difficult an uncertain future that would impact our ability to quickly respond to the needs of the poor.
Finally, I must touch on the financial realities of retail, an industry I've spent my entire life working in. When our Thrift Store first opened in the 1970s, we were the only game in town for quality used goods. Since then, the rise of retailers like Target, Walmart, Costco, Ross, and dollar stores have made it easy for people to buy new items at low prices. Also, Billings now has other thrift stores, pawnshops, and of course, Goodwill. All that to say, we have found it difficult to make money for the ministry, and our bottom line is telling us that this is the right decision.
As I mentioned earlier, we believe we will serve the poor better going in this new direction. We will be replacing our Thrift Store vouchers with what we're calling our Clothing and Essentials Program. This program will not attempt to make money through sales. Rather, it will allow us to maximize space while meeting the needs of those who don't have basics like clothing, blankets, toiletries, etc. Most importantly, it will be completely free of charge to those in need. What this means for you is that we can no longer accept your donations of used goods. For that, we happily refer you to organizations like Family Services and Montana Rescue Mission. We will, however, periodically put out calls to the community for donations of needed items like coats, socks, and underwear, which we will keep in stock at St. Vincent de Paul.
In the near future, we will put on a multi-day sale to get rid of our current inventory. Watch for an announcement on that. I know that this will be an adjustment for many people. Yet the Board of Directors and I believe this is a healthy change that will have lasting benefits for the poor and for St. Vincent de Paul.