The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has brought its mission to Brentwood, opening a new Help & Hope Thrift Center. More than a thrift store, the center offers a total package for helping those in need in Contra Costa County.
The center had its soft opening on Feb. 5, and has scheduled a grand opening for Presidents’ Day weekend on Feb. 16 and 17.
“On the 16th, we’ll have a grand opening with ribbon cutting and refreshments for people; we’ll continue refreshments and welcoming people on Feb. 17,” said Oscar Perez, interim store coordinator. “We look forward to seeing many people attend our store and come see what we’re doing over there and learn about our services and more about the Society.”
Though the thrift store is the focus, it will also serve as a resource center where people can be referred back to other St. Vincent de Paul programs at their Family Resource Center in Pittsburg, and to their branches tied to the different Catholic churches in the area, including Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley and Byron.
With an existing thrift store in Pleasant Hill and the center in Pittsburg, Brentwood seemed a good location to expand, especially considering its more than 100-percent population growth in the last decade, and with the number of people living below the poverty level also increasing more than 100-percent in that timeframe.
“The East Bay has been referred to as a services desert and we’re hoping to be an oasis in that desert,” said Claudia Ramirez, interim executive director, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County. “We feel there is a need for somebody to help direct and help support the safety net. We’re almost a safety net for the safety net, that’s how we look at ourselves.”
The name Help & Hope Thrift Center reflects its multipurpose aspect. It will serve as a place where other branches can send their clients to get changes of clothes, clothes for interviews and furnishings for their homes. The staff at the store is trained and can refer people back to branches where they get the direct volunteer action, long term on a one-on-one basis. The store will also provide income for other St. Vincent de Paul programs.
“Some of the basic programs are already in place. We’ll be offering some work opportunities through our Work Force Development Program, a 24-week program where we take people through the skills of getting into the workplace because they’ve had some sort of challenge prior to entering our program,” Ramirez said. “Little by little we’ll be expanding different programs into the area as well.”
Other programs that will benefit from the thrift store include RotaCare Pittsburg Free Medical Clinic that provides primary and urgent care to adults with no insurance; One Warm Coat program that collected and distributed close to 7,000 coats this season; a daytime shelter program called Winter Nights in central county, and a family dining room partnered with Loaves and Fishes at the Pittsburg Family Resource Center that serves lunch five days a week and staffs a small food pantry.
“Funds from the store go toward supporting our programs in the community. We’re there to generate funds for the society and its programs and also to provide services for people in the area,” Perez said. “We survive on the generosity of people, through their donations and also through their shopping in our stores and their giving.”
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic lay organization that helps those who are needy and suffering, and it welcomes support from the community, either through monetary donations, serving as volunteers or by donating goods to their stores.
The city of Brentwood has been receptive and welcoming to St. Vincent de Paul and its new Help & Hope Center.
“Everybody has been very generous with their donations and coming in and inquiring about volunteering at the store; they’ve been very, very positive with us arriving and are glad we are in the area,” Perez said.
“Basically they’ve expressed the fact that there’s been a need in that area that’s not been addressed.”
“We’ve been really blessed that the community has welcomed us in,” added Ramirez. “Our neighbors have been great and we had an amazing crew of volunteers that helped us with the Brentwood store.”
St. Vincent de Paul Brentwood Help & Hope Thrift Center: 8890 Brentwood Blvd., 925-635-3214, open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Call the center’s Family Resource Center, 925-439-5060, to find out about volunteer opportunities. Visit www.svdp-cc.org to find out more about its programs or make a donation. Donate goods to our stores directly. Drop off donations at two thrift stores that are currently open, in Pittsburg, 2210 Gladstone Drive and in Brentwood or call 925-439-5060 to schedule furniture pick-ups.