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The St. Vincent de Paul Society is looking for a landlord with a charitable heart to donate — or at least discount — a retail space for a thrift store.
Volunteers and members of the board want to open a thrift store to generate money that can be used to help needy people in the community.
Judy Banks, president of the Elizabethtown chapter of SVDP, said she formed the idea after attending a workshop with Habitat for Humanity, where she was also a volunteer.
In Oakridge, Tenn., Banks said Habitat was able to find a property owner to donate the first year’s rent on a building they used for a store and they just paid the taxes, utilities and insurance on the building. “At the end of the year, they were able to purchase the building and they rented the basement to the Salvation Army,” Banks said.
There are four SVDP thrift stores located in Louisville but it would be a new undertaking for the local SVDP chapter.
“We see about 10 families a day, four days a week,” Banks said. “Probably half of those are new.”
She described a recent family that visited the SVDP office, located at St. James Catholic Church, as a family with three small children who had been living in one room at a local motel for nine months. Their car was no longer in running condition and their only income was from the father’s part-time job. Banks said SVDP could only afford to help the family pay for two more nights at the hotel.
“With income from a store, we hopefully would have been able to give them more,” she said. Unfortunately, Banks added, SVDP is aware of a number of families with children who are living in one room at several different motels just south of Elizabethtown.
With an increase in the number of people who need help with basic necessities such as food, rent and utilities, Banks said her biggest fear is that federal budget cuts may kill the heating assistance program next year.
“That would be a disaster for Hardin County,” Banks said. “We would have to send people to the Pritchard (Community) Center like we did during the ice storm.”
All of the people who receive financial help from SVDP must be receiving or eligible to receive food stamps, Banks said, to ensure they qualify for the help.
According to SVDP statistics, about 99 percent of all the donations made to the organization are used to provide direct assistance to local people in the community. Last year, SVDP was able to assist 780 families with $63,176.
Banks said much more is needed.
“We can’t say yes to everyone who walks through the door,” she said. “We don’t have enough money.”
That’s why Banks and her fellow board members want to start a thrift store if they can find a generous landlord in a convenient, central location such as downtown or near popular stores such as Roses or Houchens.
She said they have located one property that rents for $2,100 per month, which is more than they’d like to pay but less than the $10,000 per month rent quoted for the other property that they liked.
Free would be better, Banks said with a smile, but if that’s not an option, she has developed a plan to raise $50,000 to cover rent for the first year along with utilities, insurance, equipment and general supplies.
In addition to applying for grants, the board has selected its first fundraiser project which will consist of selling Hardee’s coupon booklets for $5. Information about the fundraiser will appear in an upcoming St. James bulletin.
Banks said she has sent letters seeking donations to most of the businesses in town including fast food restaurants where a lot of their clients are employed. Hardee’s was the first to respond with a cash donation and the offer to do a fundraiser.
“If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” Banks said. “The money will come forth for the store to open.”
Anyone who wants to help SVDP in its efforts with a donation can contact Banks at (270) 737-8306 or mail it to SVDP, St. James Catholic Church, 307 W. Dixie Highway, Elizabethtown, KY, 42701.
Gayle Deaton can be reached at (270) 505-1740.