Wednesday, July 21, 2010

St. Vincent de Paul store celebrates 1st anniversary



By Pamela Hale-Burns, Press-Telegram Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - It's been a tough economic year, but the Society of St. Vincent de Paul store survived and celebrated its first anniversary Tuesday.

"It's been doing very well. We got the store opened and it's a beautiful building," said Anthony Terrazas, director of store operations for the Society. "We're struggling a little bit because of the economy, with the donations coming in, but we're hanging in there, just like everybody else."

Community visibility is vital to their success, Terrazas said.

"Hopefully, in due time, our clientele will be coming into the store a lot more," he said. "Customer count is down right now, but we're working on that.

This month, the store celebrates customer appreciation month, with their prices cut in half, Terrazas said.

"In the month of July we're having everything in the store 50 percent off to try to enhance people coming to the store. I think that'll help us out a great deal," he said.

The Society also helps feed the needy and house the homeless and sends underserved kids to camp. It is located in 142 countries and has close to a million volunteers. Of the 300 parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Society has conferences in 100.

A conference is a lay organization that works at parish level. When a pastor has a person in need, the pastor calls the president of the Society, someone comes to meet with the family to determine the need and what can be done to help meet that need.

"We console them, we don't require that they pray, but if they are so inclined, we will assist them with that," said David Fields, the new executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Los Angeles. "We do not discriminate based on age, sex, sexual persuasion, national origin, race; we help everyone, our creed is, 'No act of charity is foreign to the Society.'"

The ultimate goal is to have a conference in each of the 300 parishes in the archdiocese, Fields said.

"That would give us full exposure and that would give us the greatest ability to meet the needs of the poor," he said.

Donations to St. Vincent help the community in more than one way, Terrazas said.

"People in the area of Long Beach and the South Bay area should donate to the Society because the stuff stays here in their area," he said. "I think that's the main thing."

The Society's main focus is their customers' needs, said the store manager, Tisha Rosales.

"At this store, you can bargain more. With other stores, prices are set in stone. Here you can haggle with prices," she said. "We have a lot of programs that help kids and help people who can't afford clothing. We give away free clothing. We give away free furniture. We help with rental assistance. We have a lot of great programs."

Although there are many thrift stores, the Society's prices are always lower than the competition, said Terrazas.

"We have reasonable prices. We have a good mix of products in the store," Terrazas said. "It's a lovely store, it's very clean, well lit, well presented, but overall I think the affordability of the prices is the main thing."

The money that is made from the store is recycled back in to support the camp and the many other services the Society provides.

"I think we provide a lot to the community. We provide low cost merchandise. We have a process called free distribution, if someone is referred by one of our conferences, they can come here and get free merchandise," Fields said. "It's very important that we generate funds here. We're a nonprofit and the money goes back into the operation."

"We have been here a year and we are trying to make this a successful business," Fields said. "It's a slow process, but we have been engaged with the community. We're going to get our name out there and within a year, when we have the second anniversary, we want everybody to come back and say, 'Hey, this store is a great success.'"

The Long Beach store is located at 2750 E. Pacific Coast Highway. For more information call 562-494-9955 or go to http://www.svdpla.org. The society also has stores in Oxnard and Los Angeles.

Photos: Top - Councilmember Patrick O'Donnell (Fourth District), right, presents a certificate to Society Executive Director David Fields; Bottom - Pamela Hale-Burns (right) of the Long Beach Press Telegram interviews Society Store Director Tony Terrazas.

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