After six months without a location, the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and thrift store has found a new home north of the city’s downtown after the nonprofit was forced out of its former building near Central Middle School.
Volunteers have spent the last couple of weeks moving food, clothing and other items into the new store, which is now located in a house at 1207 N. Armstrong St. that sits directly behind St. Patrick Catholic Church.
The move comes after the Kokomo School Corporation in March purchased the nonprofit’s former building at 208 S. Union from the Wyman Group to move two industrial-sized air-conditioning chiller units into the building.
That location allowed St. Vincent to house the city’s second largest food pantry, and was the only one located downtown that had regular business hours throughout the week.
St. Vincent moved out on April 29, and volunteers spent the next six months looking for a new home. For two months, the food pantry was housed in the former Church of Goodness building before that outreach also moved, forcing St. Vincent once again to put all its food, clothing and other goods into storage units.
But all the food and thrift items have now come out of storage and are being placed in the new store after St. Patrick donated the house to the nonprofit to use.
Marcia Eckstein, the volunteer director of the thrift store, said the Wyman Group reached out to the church to see if they had any properties that might be available for the food pantry. Officials at St. Patrick said they had recently purchased the house behind the church in preparation for a building project.
Instead, the church ended up donating the property to St. Vincent. Eckstein said the Wyman Group then donated thousands of dollars to fix up the house, which had a hole in the wall and needed a new furnace. Volunteers from St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church also fixed some plumbing and electric issues to get the house ready for the move.
Now, after a five-week renovation of the property, the store is gearing up to open on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Eckstein said the house has about 1,000-feet less space than its former building, which has required them to pare down how many items they can have on display.
But the food pantry will offer the same amount of items, including canned goods, meat, bread, butter and eggs, and remain the second largest food pantry in the city.
Eckstein said although the new store isn’t located directly downtown, the location will still serve the same demographic and provide help to the downtown homeless population or those experiencing food insecurity.
She said St. Vincent will also be able to serve the surrounding neighborhood, which has pockets of poverty and has welcomed them to the area.
“Everyone in the neighborhood was so happy to find out someone was moving in instead of it being knocked down,” Eckstein said.
Former clients are now excited to once again be able to use the food bank. Eckstein said she gets up to 15 calls a day from people asking when the store will be open.
“People are excited to get in here,” she said. “We’ve really enjoyed moving in and getting this place ready.”
The thrift store and pantry was founded in the city in 2005 by parishioners from St. Joan of Arc and St. Patrick Catholic churches. Since then, it has offered a range of outreaches, including helping low-income residents pay rent, utilities and other expenses.