The hundreds of volunteers at Placer County’s St. Vincent de Paul Society lived through an eventful holiday season in 2015.
In early December, they relocated their thrift store to a more visible location at 1014 Douglas Blvd. And, later that same month, many went to a Roseville City Council meeting where two of them – husband-and-wife team Fred and Pauline Wight – were recognized as volunteers of the year.
With a staff of only eight people, St. Vincent’s volunteers drive the services at this nonprofit. They pick up and sort through furniture, food and other donations. They drop off meals to the disabled and elderly in Placer County and attempt to check up on recipients’ welfare during their visits.
Thanks to donations from area grocers, the federal government and Placer Food Bank, volunteers also distribute a variety of groceries to the needy from a food locker at the nonprofit’s headquarters in Suite 8 of the office park at 503 Giuseppe Court in Roseville.
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“A lot of people now are employed, but they’re really underemployed,” said Fred Wight. “They don’t have the kind of jobs they had before, so they don’t have the income they had before, so that’s why we see people coming in that you would never guess would come in to get food.”
Board member Tom Stanko, a retired primary-care physician, added: “We can’t prove it, but I know that we prevent homelessness. People have a high utility bill, and they have a choice to make: Do I pay my utility bill, or do I feed my kid? ... They can come here and get food, or if they can’t buy clothes for school, they can come here and get clothes. We really support a lot of people who would end up homeless.”
Along with two employees, volunteers also man the organization’s thrift store Monday through Saturday, and they run a clothes closet in the Giuseppe Court offices. Indigent people can receive clothing there for free.
Pauline Wight, 85, said it’s hard to describe the emotional rewards and sense of fulfillment she derives from volunteering. She told me that she has volunteered at Placer’s St. Vincent de Paul Society since 1984. Her husband Fred, 87, joined as a volunteer after he retired from PG&E in 1987. Although the couple are Rocklin residents, the Roseville council selected them because their volunteer work occurs in and benefits that city.
“You’re helping somebody that needs a lot of help,” said Pauline Wight. “These poor people are out here in the rain and bad situations. They need help. They need a hand up.”
About a half-dozen doctors rotate to offer free care at the organization’s urgent-care clinic at Giuseppe Court on Wednesday mornings. St. Vincent de Paul partners with The Gathering Inn, which serves Placer County homeless people, so on Saturday mornings, the clinic operates at 201 Berkeley Ave. Malpractice insurance is covered by Placer County’s Department of Health and Human Services, Stanko said, and Kaiser Permanente covers prescriptions.
At 105 Bonita Ave., St. Vincent volunteers operate a dining room that provides a hot meal and respite from inclement weather five days a week: noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
So many individuals from local companies, churches and organizations have signed up to cook and serve meals that there’s a waiting list, said Brian Moore, the St. Vincent’s executive director since late 2014. The volunteers, Moore said, allow the organization to do much more than its budget of roughly $500,000 could ever fund.
The thrift store, rebranded as Kollect-A-Knacks and More with the move, contributed roughly $100,000 to the nonprofit’s revenue stream last year, said Moore, but he expects that to grow in 2016.
“When I inherited the store (in 2014), it was doing $3,000 to $5,000 a month, he said. “I’ve been here just about a year and a half. And now we’re clipping along at $9,000 to $10,000 a month.”
Karl Thompson, president of the Placer St. Vincent’s board, attributed the increased revenue to Moore’s focus on inventory management and inventory turnover. Moore said his team relied on some sales data to make decisions but that volunteers played a crucial role in helping determine what customers actually wanted to buy. Volunteers, he said, also stepped up when the agency put out the word that they needed additional drivers to pick up donations.
“We used to have a truck out running one to one-and-a-half days a week, picking up furniture and the bigger ticket items,” Moore said. “We’re now at three days a week doing that. ... Customers have greater choices because of that.”
Moore said he sees even greater potential for sales growth at the thrift store’s new home because it has so much more traffic passing by than at the prior location at 1000 Melody Lane. The organization must grow its revenue streams, Moore said, if it is to replace aging trucks and continue to meet the needs of the less-fortunate residents of Placer County.