By: Dan Austin
Many readers now know that after 25 years, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Juneau Thrift Store will soon move to a new and better location a few blocks away.
After nearly 38 years in business, Valley Auto Parts will be closing its doors on June 1. Owner Jeff Pilcher, is retiring from business and has sold the landmark building at the corner of Glacier Highway and Shell Simmons Drive, the store’s location for 19 years, to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Pilcher, who arrived in Juneau at the age of 13 with his family in 1959, noted that retirement and the sale of the building was a difficult decision. “Trying to sell any business during this Alaska Recession is extremely difficult, so when the folks at St. Vincent de Paul made an offer to purchase the building, I decided it was a good time to retire. More than anything, I appreciate all the fine businesses and customers and employees I’ve come to know in the last 38 years.”
The Society and its Board of Directors have held on to this dream for more than a decade. Our store staff and volunteers have worked hard, and hoped, and waited for this day for a very long time. Many generous donors, large and small, have contributed to make the dream a reality.
Our only regret is that long-time volunteer, store manager and Board Member, Ida Barnack is not with us to see this day. Her stubborn devotion to Juneau’s needy, and to the store as a resource to meet that need, is the main reason the dream was not allowed to die.
It will be wonderful to offer the public a better, brighter, and more convenient shopping experience and we expect to add many enhancements that will help the store evolve its’ 21st century identity.
All that being said, it is important to focus on the purpose of the Thrift Store.
The store is simply an instrument, one tool by which the spirit of family and the generosity of the community can be converted into tangible benefit for the less fortunate. Whether it is the empowerment that comes with being able to purchase an item at a price affordable to those of most meagre means, or the cash generated by the sale of donated goods, the result is the same.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society does not “profit” from this business. We do not accumulate comfortable reserve accounts to carry us through a “rainy day.” Because, for the poor, it “rains” about every day. 100% of the cash generated beyond the cost of operations goes to support our mission of helping with material and spiritual charity for EVERYONE. EVERYONE. REGARDLESS. This is how we understand the Gospel. No one leaves St. Vincent de Paul hungry or hopeless. That is our business model.
The Society has always stretched to try to do more. Many are unaware that we own or manage six separate affordable housing sites scattered from Douglas to the Valley. On any given evening, 132 households will have a safe and decent place to live because of our donor family. All of these depend on Thrift Store sales, donations and the affordable rents paid by tenants to stay open.
Many might likewise be surprised to know that less than 15% of our operating funds come from either government or private foundation grants. Simply, 85% of our revenue comes from the hard working people of Juneau and the kindness and the generosity of our friends and neighbors. More than half of our income comes from the Thrift Store and donations. What is important about this model is that the funding generated by donations and store sales, (unless restricted by the donor) is discretionary. Our philosophy is that as much funding as possible should go to those we serve. We freely spend our income on food for the hungry, medicine to those in need, or to help pay electric and home heating utilities to those who are cold as well as rent assistance to prevent evictions. This is where your generosity is given back to God, as they are your neighbors here in Juneau. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for these least of my brothers and sisters, you did this for me.”
Thousands of our family have donated items to the store, or joined us on the annual Friends of the Poor Walk, or helped with Thanksgiving, the Adopt-A-Family program, or just made simple and unexpected donations that invariably kept the wolf from the door. Local businesses, foundations, churches, bankers, and often, folks very much on the edge themselves have slipped whatever they could afford, anonymously, under our door. I’ve seen volunteers and staff moved to tears by the selfless giving of someone we know to be very much in need themselves. That is the quickening of the Christ Spirit within us. That is family.
Please consider helping your family by shopping at our store, volunteering, (789-5535, ext. 4, firstname.lastname@example.org) or simply by making an affordable donation of any size (at our store or office, 8617 Teal St., or at svdpjuneau.org). We would like to share the blessing with you.