Another man's treasure the mission of the St. Vincent De Paul

The old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," certainly applies to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Atlanta.

We're well known throughout the metro area for our thrift stores and donation bins. Since we started here in 1903, we have been blessed by great and generous supporters who have donated all sorts of goods. For more than 100 years, we have welcomed every donated bag, box and carton of items that we received every day.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has been working quietly in Atlanta and North Georgia for more than 100 years, yet relatively few people know about the full scope of our work. In Gwinnett County alone, more than $704,000 was used at basic services for individuals in need during 2003 and 2004.

Over the years, like many families, our "basement" has accumulated all kinds of stuff that got stashed, stored and sometimes forgotten. Our "basement" is our back warehouse, which is much larger than the typical family basement.

Recently, we walked through our "basement" and discovered that many of the items stored there could actually help a person or family with limited resources. So, we brainstormed and came up with a new retail concept that we called Vinny's Weigh-n-Pay. Vinny's is a thrift store that sells essential clothing and household items by the pound. That's right, clothing, kitchen utensils, toys and many other items are just $1 a pound.

Larger items are bargain priced to sell. For example, adult bikes are $12 each, and kids' bikes are only $8. TVs cost only $11 and microwaves are just $6. Large appliances such as dryers, clothes washers, stoves and refrigerators range in price from $35 to $300, depending on their condition. Vinny's also sells exercise equipment, sporting goods and health care products such as walkers, wheelchairs, shower seats and crutches, all at bargain basement prices.

Since it opened in May, Vinny's Weigh-n-Pay has attracted many shoppers who are eager for bargains and willing to spend the time to hunt for knickknacks, pots, appliances, furniture, crafts materials and good basic clothing. One of our long-time supporters even found a set of golf clubs he simply had to have. They were a real bargain at only $2 per club.

Although St. Vincent's offers bargains to the general public, our goal is to fulfill our mission by making good essential items available to people who have very limited resources. For those who show up on our doorstep with no money, but needing clothing, we serve them in Vinny's.

The revenues from Vinny's, like those from our thrift stores, help provide much needed financial assistance to people in need. Housing, utility and medical payments and other direct services may be given to the poorest among us, addressing the core of St. Vincent de Paul's mission.

Vinny's Weigh-n-Pay is located in Chamblee, behind the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, off Watkins Avenue. Vinny's is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to

5 p.m. Bargain hunters and thrift store shoppers are always welcome. Who knows what treasure you might find in our basement?

By working smarter, we build a stronger organization and are better able to serve those in need and fulfill our mission of changing lives, one at a time. For more information about the St. Vincent de Paul Society, please contact Executive Director Nina Harrison at 770-986-4209.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Nina Harrison of St. Vincent De Paul Society.