PERU - The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store has been in operation for more than 30 years, and now, the store is starting to need a little more room.
Store coordinator Jane Woods said the thrift store is outgrowing its space adjacent to the St. Augustine's Parish Center on Main Street. The small building that houses men's, women's and children's clothing is becoming more and more cramped as weeks go by and donations come in, said Woods.
"Our donations are unbelievable. We can't keep up with the sorting," said Woods.
When the national economy began to see signs of trouble last year, the thrift store, which had already been seeing a steady number of customers each week, grew exponentially.
"We see about 80 to 115 people a week," said Woods. "We used to make $50 to $60 a week. Now, we average $350 week. And, when you're talking bags selling for $3 to $6, that's a lot of clothes that go through here."
That means even more money for the outreach efforts of St. Augustine's Church, which oversees operation of the store, said Woods. The money raised helps provide for people in need for a variety of reasons such as those who have lost their home to fire or those who suddenly find themselves without employment.
"We really do help a lot of people," said Woods.
The church's generosity is parallel with the generosity seen by the store, said Woods. On an average day, there are several bags of donations brought to the drop-off box outside the thrift store. The bags are then thoroughly examined and sorted by the store's more than 20 volunteers and prepared to be sold to customers.
"People have been bringing in donations that are better quality clothing," said volunteer Sue Williams.
"Sometimes we even get brand-new donations," added Glenda Herforth. "That's nice."
The higher quality donations make for a quick turnaround time for merchandise, said Woods, yet there is still a constant struggle to find space for it all. Whatever the thrift store doesn't sell, it donates to other organizations such as the Mission of Hope which helps families in Nicaragua and Birthright, which helps expectant mothers in the area.
"We always have someone come to pick up the excess we have because we really only have the one storage building," said Woods. "We really do need a bigger place. This is really not big enough."
When walking into the thrift store, customers immediately find themselves walking through a U-shaped aisle filled with clothing, shoes and bedding. And, though meticulously organized, where simply isn't enough room to show all the year-round merchandise the store has, said Woods.
"We can only put winter stuff out in the winter and summer stuff out in the summer," she said, noting what can't fit in the store space goes overhead in a storage area accessible only by a small entryway over the store's checkout counter. "We just do not have enough room to put everything out."
That's why the church leadership is pursuing relocating the thrift store to a bigger building, said Woods. However, the store doesn't make enough money to construct a new building, she added, and the church doesn't have the money in its own coffers either.
"It all costs money," said Woods.
The ability to relocate the thrift store will most likely rely on the church receiving sizable monetary donations or, in what would be Woods' favorite scenario, the donation of a house or other building that could be used to house the store.
"That's our dream," she said.
"So, if someone wants to donate a house, we'd appreciate it," added Williams, smiling.
Those interested in making donations may contact Woods at 834-5324 or visit the thrift store 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday though Friday; 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday; and additionally from 7-9 p.m. Thursday evenings.