'Vinnies'shop celebrates milestone

Monday, 19th November, 2012

St Vincent De Paul volunteers Kathy Kemp and Struan Trenaman at work in the Argent St Vinnies. St Vincent De Paul volunteers Kathy Kemp and Struan Trenaman at work in the Argent St Vinnies.

By Emily Roberts

The St Vincent De Paul shop in Argent Street will today celebrate its 50th anniversary.

To celebrate, the volunteers will be holding a dinner next weekend and Phil Sky, from the St Vincent de Paul Society, said that today the shop will be putting balloons around and brightening up the store.

"We've invited guests to the dinner and will be thanking volunteers for all their good work," Mr Sky said.

"The National president will be coming."

St Vinnies has been in Broken Hill for longer and it had an interesting history, according to Frank Woodman's book "The Last 75 years: A History of Saint Vincent De Paul in Broken Hill July 1 1906 to June 30 1981".

"According to Mr Woodman's book, in 1906 the Bishop of Broken Hill, Bishop Dunne, encouraged the establishment of a conference in the city to support the growing number of poor," Mr Sky said.

"This became especially relevant in 1909 with the mine 'lockout' with many men unable to support their families in the basic daily needs."

Mr Sky said there was a break in conference work during World War I in 1916 but it returned again to help the ever-growing needs of the city.

"One of their well known works of charity was the cutting of old sleepers donated by the mines of the day.

"With the growing band of 'track' travellers and with a real lack of accommodation for the homeless, a need was seen to open a men's hostel."

Mr Sky said that to raise money it was suggested that a welfare store be opened.

"A committee from the four conferences took the idea to Bishop Fox who gave approval on May 27, 1962.

"Premises at 83 Argent Street were leased. An auxiliary of 52 women was formed, presided over by Iris Woodman and the store was opened on November 19, 1962."

The amount of stock soon outgrew the small shop, so a large shed was built in parish grounds in Mica Street, now long gone.

"When the owners of the old shop and land at 97-99 Argent Street passed away the land was seen to be of greater need to the society and Bishop
Warren saw that there was more space for the shop, meal centre and a meeting room.

So the land was handed over to the society," Mr Sky said.

"Volunteers formed working bees and cleared the land ready for the construction of the new premises."

On completion the centre was blessed by Bishop Warren on June 26, 1970 and opened for business on Monday, June 29 after a busy weekend
of moving stock down the road from 83 Argent Street.

Since 1970 there has been several changes in the centre's executive. The most recent past presidents were Carmel O'Neill, Vonnie Victory. The present president is Lois Ellis.

During the decade of 2000, the local branch helped more than 300 people a month during the drought, providing accommodation, food and assistance
with telephone and electricity bills.

More recently, locals have been having a hard time with rises in electricity prices.

"All sales from the shop and the money raised is used to help locals," Mr Sky said.

"So keep coming down and buying things." Mr Sky said something that hasn't changed is the generosity from locals.

"We are still getting a lot of good donations," he said.

"I would like to thank the community for donating. The best quality items are cleaned and put into the shop."

Mr Sky said people donate bric-a-brac, toys and books as well as clothes.

"Also we have had many changes of face of our wonderful volunteers and we thank them one and all for their time and dedication," Mr Sky said.

"Wehave around 80 volunteers. We have a roster so most of the volunteers work half days.

"They keep the place running and the volunteers don't get burnt out."