St. Vincent's Furniture Store is the heartbeat of the SVP's charitable works in the North-west.
Based in Collyhurst, central Manchester, the Store provides furniture and associated household sundries to families and individuals most in need.
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In the early 1990s a few Society members from the Oldham area began to collect and deliver furniture to families in need. A typical Vincentian activity and one which is doubtless replicated today in many parts of the country. But, in this case, the dedication of these few Brothers and their friends, often working from dawn to dusk every Tuesday, was the catalyst for something more.
About ten years ago a local benefactor donated sufficient funds to purchase a brand new 3.5 tonne vehicle, complete with power operated tailgate. Then, in November 2000, the Diocese offered the Society the use of two classrooms in the former primary school behind St. Patrick’s church at Collyhurst, just north of Manchester City Centre.
At that point the members took a decision to appoint Mike Clark as Project Manager and he has committed himself ever since to the task of keeping the work going, through good times and bad. The Trustees gave formal approval to the designation of St Vincent’s Store as a major Special Work from 1st May 2001
SVP members have always tried to ensure that the operations based at St. Vincent’s remain closely linked to the life of the Society, so the Store also acts as the CC office, with a large room which is used for meetings and training events. The room also provides a base for the City Centre Conference, comprised of a group of members from around Greater Manchester.
At present the group is able to meet only once a month and to undertake a limited number of visits, but the prayer is that one day a fully active local Conference will be reborn in what was once one of the largest parishes in England
St Vincent’s gives the Society a significant presence in a deprived area where we have lost all our traditional Conference representation. It has made us visible to the Parish and enabled us to work as neighbours with the Diocesan Catholic Welfare Societies.
SVP members provide transport to the monthly Mass for the elderly and for the annual Christmas Party, at which they also play a leading role
Today the Store also acts as a depot for the Community Shops in Blackley and Northenden, and helps to supply the Shops in Birkenhead and Wallasey which were started by Shrewsbury members. The number of van journeys is running at 3000 per year, of which 500 are deliveries to needy people in the North West. The majority of these families and individuals are referred by Social Services Departments and Homeless support agencies.
Mike Clark is now supported by a team of 3 full-time staff, plus the four Team Leaders in the shops, as well as a loyal band of volunteers.
In 2005 agreement was reached with the Probation Service that a dedicated SVP Laundry should be set up at their Longsight premises. All donated clothes are sent there for sorting, cleaning and pricing by people on Unpaid Work Orders and then redistributed to the SVP shops.
Since October the team at the Store, supplemented by a manager seconded from the Probation Service, have taken on responsibility for supervising a daily quota of 10-12 people on Unpaid Work Orders. This commitment means that the Store is operational seven days a week, but it will have a major impact on the sorting, cleaning, repair and throughput of furniture and household goods
St Vincent’s and its associated operations are now unrecognisable when compared to November 2000, let alone the small van used by those pioneers in Oldham.
The members and the Management Committee will continue to work in partnership with the Director of Operations and neighbouring membership of The Society to develop a sustainable plan for the future.
The vision must be to provide other suitable services, such as debt counselling, which meet current needs.