A crowd came to celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s move to new quarters at the Crane Building on Wednesday morning.
“Ready, one, two three,” St. Vincent Executive Director Vicki Massie called out before she, with board members and city officials, snipped a blue ribbon in front of the brick building at 3005 First Ave. S.
Then Massie invited visitors to step inside the renovated space for snacks and tours.
“We love our new building,” she said, once everyone congregated inside. “We’re very grateful to be in this building and we’re very grateful for our supporters, so from the bottom of our heart, thank you very much.”
She gave a nod to the staff for their work in getting the building ready. And Massie added that the new space “is perfect for what we need it to be.”
The July move from 2624 Montana Ave. gives the Catholic nonprofit additional space to serve the clients that they call “friends.” The St. Vincent de Paul store, which for the moment remains at the Montana Avenue site, will have to squeeze in a smaller space on the Crane Building's second floor when it moves in November.
The interior of the new headquarters is light and airy, with new paint and flooring and exposed brick in parts of the first-floor room. Kelly Studer, president of the St. Vincent de Paul board of directors, said she has seen a lot of growth and expansion over the 15 years she’s been part of the ministry.
She’s pleased with the benefits that come with the move.
“This is a lot bigger and we can do a lot more activities because the other building was kind of small,” Studer said. “We hope to interact more with the friends and to have different kinds of classes that they want to help them.”
Lisa Harmon, executive director of the Downtown Billings Alliance, is delighted with the result of the remodeling of the Crane Building, which has been empty for at least 20 years.
“To see St. Vincent de Paul in this beautiful development is just so incredible for us, and touching,” she said. “We’re glad that we could be a part of it and that our office and TIF could support it.”
Some parts of the project qualified for tax increment finance money, Harmon said. Many TIF projects involve the private sector as part of an effort to promote development downtown.
“And here, when you’re able to do this for a project that has a mission like this, it just warms your heart,” Harmon said. “And so we’re just very, very proud today.”
Denise Smith, public relations director for the Montana Rescue Mission, was on hand for the ribbon cutting. She said the two organizations try to work together as closely as possible.
“We’re not competing to help the poor, we’re working together to help the poor,” she said.
St. Vincent de Paul’s move makes it easier for MRM clients at the 2822 Minnesota center to walk over to the other nonprofit’s building. Since both work, to some degree, with the homeless, “we have a lot of crossover as far as the people we serve,” Smith said.
Massie, who was introduced Wednesday as the new executive director, explained in an interview that St. Vincent de Paul’s mission is to help low-income people with whatever they need to become self-sufficient.
Probably the biggest way the nonprofit does that is to prevent people from getting evicted from their homes. That can mean paying the cost of utilities or providing gas vouchers and bus tickets to help clients get to and from work.
St. Vincent de Paul will pay the costs for someone to get training through the Lincoln Center so they can find better-paying jobs. It provides refurbished computers to students and donates new cribs to parents with infants.
“On occasion, if we have somebody who needs to go to a treatment center and meets the criteria, we will help them get there,” Massie said.
During fiscal year 2016, the ministry helped 213 clients with rent, totaling $59,598, and gave out $17,993 in utility payments. The total budget for the year was $146,974, all from private donations.
St. Vincent de Paul is known for its help to the homeless. Though that isn’t the ministry’s sole mission, it does what it can to improve their lives, Massie said.
Homeless clients are invited to come in the mornings for rolls and coffee, and they may spend the day inside if they choose, or sit at a picnic table outside.
Public restrooms are available, as are a washer and dryer and the detergent to do a load of laundry.
“We serve them and anyone else a sack lunch a day,” she said. “If it’s a working person who struggles to put food on the table, we invite them to come in for lunch.”
Massie worked for five years at St. Vincent de Paul as the volunteer coordinator before being named executive director. She admits she has a lot to learn, but she’s excited for the challenge.
“I love our mission, I love what we do, I love the people of this community and I will do whatever I can to work closely with the other agencies and be a good neighbor on the South Side,” Massie said. “I will do everything I can to take to take St. Vincent de Paul to the next level.”