For nearly 60 years the St. Vincent de Paul store has been a fixture in downtown Beaver Dam, but that will change this fall when the charitable organization moves to a new site.
“We’ve basically outgrown our building,” said James Hafenstein, president of the Dodge County St. Vincent de Paul Society Council.
“We want to continue to serve the needs of the community,” council treasurer John Koenig said.
The need for more room is evident to visitors to the store on South Spring Street where clothes, furnishings, household items and more crowd every available space. A small sorting facility in back offers little elbow room for the volunteers. The Dodge County Food Pantry was housed in the basement. That is the tip of the iceberg, as the store also had donations stored off site.
Hafenstein said about seven years ago, the council began looking at options for growing. Adding to the current store was considered, but was cost-prohibitive. In addition, the store on South Spring Street is actually three different buildings with different elevations in each.
Remodeling isn’t practical.
So after a searching for a few years and viewing about a dozen sites, the property at 123 and 124 Dodge Drive became available. (The site was once considered as the site for a new senior/community center, but was rejected by a committee comparing the sites available). A market study showed that traffic volume at the site just off of North Spring Street was three times higher and that the county could sustain a newer and larger thrift store.
The property purchased on April 1 includes 3.25 acres and two buildings. The main building, which will house the store, is 16,500 square feet. The second building is a 10-unit office and will have office space for rent.
The new store will offer 8,000 square feet of retail space, compared to 4,400 square feet in the current store. It will offer a much larger space for storage and processing donations, improved bathrooms and lighting and the council has purchased a clothes bundler allowing it to recycle more clothing and material.
Much of the preparation work has been completed by volunteers and Horizon Construction has been hired. The actual move is still in the planning stages.
All of this serves the purpose of providing help to those in need locally.
In 2012, St. Vincent de Paul provided $110,204 in assistance. That included $38,622 in food that it purchased as well as assistance for rent, utilities, medical expenses, car repairs and more. In addition, the Dodge County Food Pantry operated by St. Vincent de Paul distributed thousands of pounds of donated food.
Hafenstein said that 98 percent of the money raised remains in Dodge County. It is distributed through conferences associated with Catholic parishes, but is available to anyone in need. Hafenstein emphasized that evaluations don’t consider anything, but the person’s or family’s need.
He estimates that in the past decade close to $1 million has been distributed in Dodge County.
They do that with four full time employees, two part time employees (including store manager Kathy Wheeler and assistant manager Jennifer Dobbratz). There are 10 regular volunteers. There also are volunteers who serve in parish conferences and the council board members who are Hafenstein. Koenig, vice president Dave Kleindl, secretary Todd McCarthy and advisor Don Everman.
“We hope to increase our volunteer base,” Hafenstein said, adding that better working conditions and higher visibility should help reach that goal. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact Hafenstein at 920-392-4591 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They also could call or stop at the store and talk to the store manager.
Volunteers would be following in the footsteps of the local founders, who incorporated on July 14, 1955. Officers included Irwin Becker, Raymond Frisch, Alex McCarthy, Francis Hein and the Rev. David Wilbur. Hafenstein said it is a long, valued tradition.
“It’s one of the oldest businesses in Beaver Dam.”