Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 30, 2001
CSS to close second-hand store
Decision sparks outrage from dedicated customers
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Opened 40 years ago to meet the needs of the poor, St. Vincent de Paul Store at 118th Avenue and 82nd Street will close next month.
Upset customers are trying to convince Catholic Social Services to reverse its decision. As of April 24, some 600 customers had signed a petition pressing CSS to keep the store open. A protest in front of the store was rumoured for April 28.
The store offers second-hand clothing, furniture and household goods at an affordable price.
"The main reason for closing the store is we want to allocate our resources in such a way that we can more effectively meet the needs of the disadvantaged and those people in need in the community," said CSS spokesperson Mark Barylo.
"We are not sure the St. Vincent de Paul store is the most effective way of using the resources. Secondly, there is a lot of competition in the marketplace for second-hand stores. Just in that area alone, in the east end of the city and towards downtown, there are close to 50 other vendors."
The difference between St. Vincent de Paul Store and other area stores is that in many cases it provided furniture and other goods for free to needy families. The store also doubled as a drop-in centre for the poor.
Barylo also cited the emergence of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Edmonton as a reason for the closure.
The society, a parish-based international Catholic lay organization, provides food, clothing, furniture, household items and even emergency housing for struggling families. Since it started a year ago, the society has established three parish-based groups in the city.
"I think they are wanting to meet some of the needs that our store currently is providing and I guess we don't want to be duplicating their efforts either," Barylo said. "We don't want to be seen as a barrier to them."
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul spoke to CSS about the need for the store to change its name but never suggested it should close, said society spokesperson Jack Robertson.
"We told them that the name that they were using on their store and on their truck was confusing to the efforts of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul," he said. "They agreed it was confusing and decided that they would release the name to us. What they've done beyond that is their decision."
"I don't see any benefit (in closing the store)," commented Don Hunter, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for Western Canada. "The idea is to help the poor, not eliminate options."
Clare Bolsford, an 80-year-old store customer and advocate for the poor, started a petition as soon as she learned about the closure about a month ago. Some 600 people have signed so far.
"We really need this store in this neighbourhood," she said. "There are a lot of poor people in this area." Bolsford does a lot of shopping at the store for infirm and disabled seniors who can't shop on their own.
"I think they just want the office space," she lamented. "They (CSS) help a lot of people in this city but don't want to be bothered with this store anymore." Joyce Oglesby signed the petition. She wants the store to remain open. "I go to a lot of second-hand stores but I like this one because it's so convenient and always has such great bargains," she said.
To Anne McLennan, an area senior citizen who has been shopping at the store for many years, the St. Vincent de Paul store is simply "the best second-hand store I've ever seen."
She likes the variety, the quality as well as the helpful and welcoming disposition of the staff and volunteers. "They treat you so well here," she said.
Store employees refused comment saying they had been told by their employer not to speak to the media.
But store volunteers Jean Cooper and John A. MacDonald expressed their opinion on the closure.
"I feel very sad because it has been used by so many, many people in need over the years," said Cooper, a former store manager who became a volunteer four and a half years ago.
"I have seen moms coming in years ago to the store and now their children are coming in too to buy clothing and furniture. So it's going to be a sad scene in this area."
MacDonald, a volunteer for five years, is frustrated by the CSS decision. "I'm very sorry to see it go," he said, noting people visit the store to socialize as well as shop. "This is a friendly place for them. Many come for a hug or a handshake."
Barylo admitted CSS has received many letters and phone calls from upset clients but stressed the closing of the store is not a sign that his agency or the Church are abandoning the poor.
"If anything, it's Catholic Social Services and even the Catholic archdiocese trying to refocus what their resources are in terms of helping the poor," he said.
It costs CSS about $220,000 per year to run the store. "It's is not a cheap operation to run," Barylo said. "You've got a truck that you are running and you are maintaining and you have to have some staff at the store, you have space and heating of the space.
"It's costly. It's never, ever run at a profit, always runs at a deficit, which probably averages close to $1,500 to $2,000 a month."
CSS is trying to find the five store employees employment in the agency but there is no guarantee, Barylo said.
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