Vincent exterior

St. Vincent de Paul celebrates its new building at 3005 First Ave. S. with a ribbon cutting and open house Wednesday morning.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

When St. Vincent de Paul Society moved three blocks west and two blocks south in downtown Billings, the charity office brought along all its services to the poor of our community:

Rent, utility and transportation assistance, vouchers to shop in the thrift store, an open door for anyone who needs to get out of the weather, have lunch, use the restroom, do a load of laundry or receive spiritual counseling. The Catholic charity also refurbishes computers for needy students, gives baby clothing to new parents, and provides a representative payee program to help people with disabilities pay their bills on time. The new charity office at 3005 First Ave. S., still partners with RiverStone’s Health Care for the Homeless, Job Service and the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Work Detail for nonviolent offenders.

“We can alter our services to meet the needs of people coming in for services, Executive Director Vicki Massie told The Gazette. “It’s all about helping your fellow man.”

“We hire the unhirable, we hire the homeless,” Massie said. “We hope they use this as a stepping stone to something better.”

What’s new at St. Vincent de Paul is having twice as much space to welcome those in need. The brick, two-story, 98-year-old Crane Building was remodeled with private donations and a city grant of $350,000 in downtown Tax Increment Financing District funds. With elevators serving the entire building, the first-floor charity office and the future second-floor thrift store will be easy to access and parking will be easier with 70 off-street spaces.

The City Council and downtown businesses recognize St. Vincent de Paul Society as a long-time contributor to community health and wellbeing. That fact was evident at the grand opening event last week, where the crowd included city and county officials, downtown business leaders and leaders of Montana Rescue Mission and Family Service Inc.

“I want to end the perception that charity agencies don’t work together,” Massie told The Gazette while greeting guests. “We don’t duplicate services. I don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks.”

Massie said St. Vincent de Paul works with Montana Rescue Mission. Family Service Inc. and St. Vincent de Paul will soon be setting up the annual Christmas store with gifts donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign. This year’s store for parents of needy kids will be in the MetraPark Expo Center, and many volunteers will be required.

Massie herself started with St. Vincent de Paul as a volunteer. A professional graphic artist, she volunteered to redesign the organization’s website. Five years ago, she was hired as the volunteer coordinator, and recently, she was named executive director.

For information on volunteering at the Christmas toy store or for other St. Vincent de Paul projects, call 252-1855.

Another way to help is by donating goods to the thrift store and shopping there. Store proceeds help support the charity office, which receives no government funds for its operations.

Thrift store hours are 9-5 Monday through Friday and 9-4 on Saturday. The store on Montana Avenue remains open, but the plan is to move it by November to the new building on First Avenue South.

As St. Vincent de Paul puts a large, long-vacant building to good use for the community, its properties on Montana Avenue are being sold. New owners and business will move into those spots on a street that boasts art galleries, fine dining and microbreweries.

Congratulations to St. Vincent de Paul Society, its staff, leadership and the many people who made it possible to enhance services to needy folks while also making way for new downtown development.