By DAVID GREEN
Fayette’s St. Vincent de Paul store is about to expand. Anticipating the new addition brings to mind the past for Betty Monahan, who has been a part of the store since the beginning.
She recalls back in 1977 when the charitable organization first set up shop in the second floor of the Fayette village hall downtown.
“There were 23 steps up and 23 steps down,” Betty recalls. “It became too dangerous for older people, so Phil started looking around for an empty building.”
That’s Phil Monahan, her husband, who went into the former Clemenson’s lumberyard one day, near the fire station.
It was settled. The store had found a new home in a building in the back of the lumberyard.
In those days, St. Vincent in Fayette mostly handled government surplus items, such as butter and cheese. A store with clothing and toys came later.
The lumberyard building was unheated, but the suffering there eventually worked to the local group’s benefit.
“We wore our snow boots and froze our fingers,” Betty said. “One day the head of St. Vincent in Toledo was visiting and Phil took him over to the building. The guy put his pop down and before long it was frozen.”
The visitor knew a change was needed. They soon moved into the house east of R&H Restaurant, before it was fixed up for residency as it is now.
“There were woodchucks in the basement and coons upstairs,” Betty recalls. “We had the middle floor.”
In 1990, the existing structure was built in back of Our Lady of Mercy church, and within two weeks, that building will grow with a new area designated for toys.
“We do a lot of good,” Betty said. “Some people tell us they wouldn’t have had Christmas without us.”
Christmas is the big season for Fayette’s St. Vincent de Paul store. During a three-week period, people from 35 surrounding communities visit to “shop” for gifts. About 1,500 children were helped by the group last year.
One week is scheduled for parents to select toys—at no cost, of course—then comes a week for grandparents. For the third week, the general public is invited in to find gifts.
During the remainder of the year, the store is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday.
There are a dozen or so volunteers who keep the store going, Betty said. They sort through items and place them in the appropriate location in the store.
“They keep us busy,” she said about the generous people who bring in donations. “They come from all over, especially right now when the garage sales are over with. What they don’t sell they bring to us.”
Most of the toys and clothing are good, used items, but occasionally new things are brought in. In addition, the Boy Scout troop collects food for the pantry.
The new addition will alleviate the need for the Monahans to store toys in their hen house south of Hudson.
“We get toys from St. Vincent in Toledo, but we get a lot of donations from this area,” Betty said. “It’s amazing.
“When it gets close to Christmas, they really come in. They dump their toy boxes. People sure are good to us.”
Local gardeners also bring in produce to give away in the summer.
The store handles some furniture, but it’s not a priority.
“We’re getting up there in age,” Betty said about the volunteers running the store. “We don’t really want to move furniture.”
In 30 years of working at the store, she and other volunteers have had the pleasure of helping many people in need.
“We’ve had a lot of experiences and a lot of good times,” Betty said.
• The St. Vincent de Paul Society started in 1833 in France. The first unit was established in the United States in 1845.
The goal of the international society is to relieve poverty, suffering and loneliness.
More than 4,300 units exist in the United States and an estimated 12 million Americans receive aid each year.