thrift stores

07-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

This isn’t a stores column, but let’s use a store as an example. When reviewing a Thrift Store, I always request that the manager and I close our eyes and we suddenly appear in the middle of the store. What do we see, and what is the store trying to tell us?

In a recent overseas stores tour, the request led me to see a lot of signage about sustainability. That’s a fairly new term for what stores used to call “reuse, renew, and recycle” to which all Thrift Stores can contribute. While such sustainability is a great stores benefit and certainly a very Catholic objective, it is not why we operate our stores. Rather it is one of many good business practices we undertake in the course of our work.

Thus a second and most important question, for all our works: Why don’t we tell more people about our actual mission in what we do to meet it?

Our mission is to bring people to holiness, done through the serving of the poor, assisted with the operations and revenues of, in this example, the store. Our members often complain that no one knows enough about the Society. However, we continue to tell them only what we do. What we often fail to tell them is who we are.

It is natural to confuse activity with intentions. Our communities see our food pantries, pharmacies, and other programs, and so assume that these are the Society’s mission. Even worse, for privacy reasons we purposely don’t show the public our core Home Visit service, so they have no evidence that this is any aspect of our Society’s mission. At best they know we “help the poor,” and because that’s often enough to stimulate donations and good will from most people, we leave well enough alone.

This might all be fine if our mission was to attract volunteers and funds to help our neighbors in need. That’s dangerous thinking because many good people don’t need a faith basis to be charitable. As pro football coach, Bill Parcells once said, you are what your (win-loss) record says you are. What does our Society program, signage and advertising “record” say we are? Could we easily be confused with another social services organization, another used goods store, or a parish ministry?

Marketing people look for the “unique offering” that distinguishes you from the competition, and hopefully provides an advantage in attaining organizational goals.  A unique offering of the Society in a few words is that we offer our members the chance to see the face of Christ. That’s one heck of an offering, right?

We are not embarrassed by our Catholic faith, nor by our members being driven by it to serve the poor. We can be much more intentional about this in our materials messaging, signage, and especially in our language. When asked what the Society does, the proper response might be different for a parishioner than someone else, and that’s fine. Whether the response is, “We help our members grow in holiness through serving the poor,” or “We are Catholics and others who put our faith into action by serving the poor,” at least both point to the same north star of our mission. Yes, we accomplish lots of other good outcomes! We provide sustainable solutions for clothing and household goods. We make efficient use of medications and food supplies to help the most needy. We pay rent and utility bills. We teach neighbors how to be more self-sufficient. We advocate. We do all this and so much more, which, again, is fantastic.

Let’s not confuse what we do, though, with who we are. Others, perhaps many others in our community, can do what we do. No one else is who we are, the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We are not simply good people doing good works, we are disciples.  And we pray that others will join us and share in our vocation.

I invite you to close your eyes during your Vincentian service, and then re-open them. With this fresh view, what do you see?  Do others see it too?

Yours in Christ (see, isn’t that easy?),
Dave Barringer
CEO

Stores Corner: Skillful Merchandising Adds to the Bottom Line

Stores Corner: Skillful Merchandising Adds to the Bottom Line 738 416 SVDP USA

By: Ed Markiewicz
Council of Greensburg, PA

Achieving and maintaining profitability in our Thrift Stores requires implementing standard operational procedures consistently. Without a doubt having the right people, establishing effective intake processing and pricing procedures as well as a color rotation system, and utilizing the data from the Point of Sale system to analyze and implement the necessary changes are the basic requirements for a successful operation. But skillful merchandising can dramatically add to the bottom line and create a welcoming atmosphere for you customers.

How can this easily be achieved? Create a visual team with a creative spirit. Visual merchandising, unexpected pairings, thoughtful details, and repetition attract the eye. Using flexible space for events and seasonal items, a fresh look or display, and creating a rhythm to the store by placing visual elements that guide customer flow through the store are essential. Clever color placement as well as themed settings draw customer attention, and create a warm uniform effect.

Tell a story high on the walls to draw customer’s eyes to featured items. Use mannequins in a unique eye catching display not merely to display clothes. Be sure to showcase items specific to the area and use a simple signage system that often times is the most effective. It can lead to excitement and additional income opportunities, while capturing data at a granular level for deeper insights into the business.

Customers who believe in the mission of the store and enjoy shopping at the SVdP store can share the store’s presence within their own circle of influence: family, friends, and loved ones. Additional visibility for the store is always great!

Loyalty cards allow your store to capture customer data points, which can be leveraged into marketing opportunities. Ask yourself, how can we stay in contact with customers and make decisions on marketing and advertising campaigns?

From the data points captured through loyalty cards, stores can send out email blasts or text blasts, to the customer base for any special sales or promotions. Customer retention is much cheaper than customer acquisition!

Connect with a Region Rep to learn more about what is happening in your area – the list of committee members can be found under the Resources drop down at https://www.svdpusa-thriftstore.org/.

Stores Corner: Staying in Contact With Your Customers is Critical

Stores Corner: Staying in Contact With Your Customers is Critical 738 416 SVDP USA

Customer loyalty and gift cards can be a positive add-on for a store. Having a Point of Sale (POS) system allows for ease in these types of special add-on programs in daily store operations. These programs create customer excitement and additional income opportunities, while capturing data at a granular level for deeper insights into the business.

Customers who believe in the mission of the store and enjoy shopping at the SVdP Thrift Store can share the store’s presence within their own circle of influence: family, friends, and loved ones. Additional visibility for the store is always great!

Loyalty cards allow your store to capture customer data points, which can be leveraged into marketing opportunities. Ask yourself, how can we stay in contact with customers and make decisions on marketing and advertising campaigns?

From the data points captured through loyalty cards, stores can send out email blasts or text blasts, to the customer base for any special sales or promotions. Customer retention is much cheaper than customer acquisition!

Connect with a Region Rep to learn more about what is happening in your area – the list of committee members can be found under the Resources drop down at https://www.svdpusa-thriftstore.org/.

By: Rick Bologna
SVdP Stores Director / Central Texas

Employees to Wed Inside St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store

Employees to Wed Inside St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store 2560 2014 SVDP USA

Wedding bells are about to be ringing in Marinette, Wisconsin as their local St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) thrift store gears up to be the place two of its employees say, “I do.” Scott Kopish and Laurie Hinkens will wed September 11, 2021 right in the middle of the sales floor in a private ceremony.

According to both of the soon-to-be newlyweds, choosing the location of their nuptials was a no-brainer. “This place (SVdP) has that feel-good feeling,” Hinkens said. “We come to work with a smile on our face every day. That’s a fact.”

“When I was sent here on a light-duty assignment, I walked in and I instantly felt safe,” Kopish said. “I don’t know how I can explain it. I just felt safe and I thought, you know what? We met here. It would be great to get married in this building. I just thought it meant something.”

Kopish and Hinkens are both long-term employees of SVdP who were both struggling physically prior to starting in their roles. Kopish has been with SVdP for over three years, starting through the Worker’s Compensation program due to an injury as a truck driver. Hinkens started nearly two years ago as a volunteer who had recently received a scary health prognosis.

Hinkens said she felt drawn to Kopish within minutes of meeting him, but wanted to warn him of her medical issues.

“When I saw him for the first time, I got a big smile on my face, and boom,” Hinkens said. “But, I told Scott within the first couple days that I started working that my gastro doctor said I had just one to two years to live.”

While Hinkens was physically struggling when she started with SVdP, a lot has changed since then. Her health has drastically improved, but she looks back on the early days of dating Kopish and how his concern pulled her through the hardest times.

“Other employees would say, ‘Scott’s just so scared for you. He wants to help you. He wants to be with you,’ and I had never felt like that before. Ever,” Hinkens said.

That reassurance from Kopish was a building block for their relationship, even though Hinkens wasn’t the only one who felt reassured in their relationship. Prior to meeting Hinkens, Kopish was leaning on his faith to get him through his difficult times as a single father.

“I remember sitting at the picnic table outside of work and praying to God. I said, “God, send me an angel. Send me somebody who is good for me and my daughter. I will not accept any less,” Kopish said. “And then, boom.”

Despite the grim timeline years ago, Hinkens has been improving physically despite all odds. “The pancreas that was almost shot is now better,” Kopish said. “That just doesn’t happen with a pancreas.”

Hinkens says that their relationship and both of their belief in God are two of the biggest reasons she has been improving, both mentally and physically. “We are so far from perfect, but if one of us is down, the other one is up,” Hinkens said. “God has made the relationship like a Lego that fits with another Lego.”

While wedding planning can be stressful, the couple said the process has been easier than they imagined for their relationship. “Everything has been perfect. Whatever perfect is. If it’s not perfect, it’s a hair under it,” Kopish said.

This is the first wedding ever held at Marinette’s St. Vincent de Paul location, and according to Executive Director Ashley McKinnon, it is an important reminder of the nonprofit’s mission.

“Our organization thrives on nurturing individuals who are struggling,” McKinnon said. “Watching the relationship between Scott and Laurie blossom has been truly beautiful. To see people down on their luck, find each other and push one another to grow in a positive way is what we are all about.”

Providing meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities, our 450 thrift stores are a significant driver of the Society’s mission and effectiveness. Local Conferences distribute clothing, furniture, and household goods to people in need through SVdP Stores vouchers, providing a dignified shopping experience. Profits from our stores contribute millions of dollars for Councils and Conferences to assist neighbors in need in their communities.

2021 Midyear Meeting

Midyear Meeting Wrapup

Midyear Meeting Wrapup 1916 1030 SVDP USA

Thank you to everyone who attended this year’s 2021 Virtual Midyear Business Meeting. We hope you found it both educational and spiritually uplifting. We’ll be sending out a survey soon for your input, suggestions, and feedback for the Meeting.

Those attendees who chose VIP Registration will receive a copy of the Society’s 175th Anniversary Book and a Commemorative Coin, shipping from our store in the next week. If you didn’t choose VIP registration, you may still order either the book, the coin, or a set of both. The book expands upon Ray Sickinger’s excellent presentation on the history of the Society in the United States, and is a must-read.

Presentation Links

If you were unable to attend a session, or would like to watch it again, here are links to the program recordings:

General Sessions
Spirituality
Governance
Programming
Business 
Thrift Stores 

Exhibitor Showcase

If you were not able to attend the Exhibitor Showcase, links and contact information for each vendor presentation can be found below. We hope you enjoy visiting with our vendors and that you’ll follow-up with them and help grow the Society’s partnership with our National Partners and Exhibitors.

Click the links below to view each presentation, or to email the vendor directly, click on their name:

2021 National Assembly

Mark your calendars for our 2021 National Assembly at the Marriott Marquis in Houston, Texas, August 25 – 29, 2021. We hope to see you there! For those who are not yet comfortable travelling, there will be  a hybrid component to the National Assembly so that those at home can still be part of the gathering.

 

St. Anthony Messenger cover story

Society of St. Vincent de Paul featured in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine

Society of St. Vincent de Paul featured in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine 360 480 SVDP USA

St. Anthony Messenger magazine, an American Catholic family magazine published by the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati, has selected the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as its March cover story.

The wide-ranging, multipage article touches upon several key aspects of the Society’s work in serving neighbors in need, including our food pantries, thrift stores, emergency financial assistance, and the Getting Ahead program. The print copy also includes many photos of Vincentian volunteers serving their communities, including several images of the Society’s international efforts.

While the article tells the Society’s story through the lens of the Bloomington, Indiana and Dayton, Ohio Conferences, programs from other Conferences across the country are also highlighted, including Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, North Texas, Chicago, and Cincinnati.

With a monthly circulation of more than 50,000, St. Anthony Messenger’s story provides the Society with a unique opportunity to reach new volunteers and donors. We hope you’ll read it and share it with your parish and community.

To read the article online, visit the St. Anthony Messenger website. To inquire about a hard copy of the issue, you can visit their subscription page.

2021 Midyear Meeting

Don’t Miss the 2021 Virtual Midyear & Business Meeting!

Don’t Miss the 2021 Virtual Midyear & Business Meeting! 1060 1401 SVDP USA

Don’t miss the 2021 Virtual Midyear & Business Meeting

March 3 – 6, 2021

It’s not too late to register for our 2021 Midyear and Business Meeting! The virtual program begins Wednesday, March 3 and ends Saturday, March 6. You’re also invited to join us Sunday, March 7 for a special presentation showcasing the Vincentian Heritage Tour. We hope you’ll join us! To register, click here.

Agenda Highlights

Wednesday, March 3
  • Disaster Services Training
    The continuing pandemic taught us that we must be prepared for all types of disasters. Learn how your Council can effectively prepare and respond during a Disaster. Disaster Services Corporation’s CEO Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, COO Kevin Peach, and Chief Program Officer Anthony Pluchino will provide an innovative webinar with a tabletop exercise. All attendees will receive a Certificate of Completion for their attendance.
  • Stores Program
    Introduction of Stores Committee, Opening a Thrift Store & Closing Policies, Using Drop Boxes for Revenue Generation, How to Drive Sales, and more.
  • Virtual Exhibitor Showcase
    One-on-One presentations with SVdP Vendors with Q&A Sessions (Separate registration required)
Thursday, March 4
  • Opening Session with President Ralph Middlecamp
  • History Presentation by Ray Sickinger
  • Regional Meetings (Eastern, South Central, Southeast Regions Only)
Friday, March 5
  • Morning Reflections/Spiritual Retreat
  • Public Policy Priorities From Our Bishops – USCCB
  • Workshops: Finding Servant Leaders: Recruitment & Discernment; First Things First: Governance Priorities for New Leaders; Where Have We Been with Systemic Change
Saturday, March 6
  • National Business Meeting
  • Strategic Planning Session
  • Workshops: Monthly Growth & Revitalization Sharing Opportunities; SVdP Housing Survey Update & Homeless Housing in the Pandemic; Formation Plans for Conferences and Councils
  • Sponsored Presentation: Music by John Angotti
Sunday, March 7
  • The Footsteps of Our Founders and Patrons: Vincentian Heritage Tour Preview
    This online virtual tour of Paris will highlight the places that will be visited on the Heritage Pilgrimage, which is rescheduled for September 2021. Ralph Middlecamp will give an overview of Paris today and yesterday, visiting the places where Blessed Frederic Ozanam, St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, and St. Louise de Marillac lived, worked, and are now at rest. Even if you are not planning on traveling to Paris, you will enjoy spending this hour exploring the Paris roots of our Society and the Vincentian Family.
Registration

If you’ve never attended a Midyear Meeting before, there’s no better time! Visit our registration page to sign up today.

**All Sessions will take place in Central Time Zone. Zoom links will be emailed to you prior to the start of each program.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content