From jr high to middle school, to elementary school, Muncie's former St. Lawrence building has taught many stories, but the one it has been telling for the past 28 years, could be its best yet— one of unity and compassion.
Little did Nancy Taverna know at 16 — rushing to class at St. Lawrence Jr High — that she would manage these halls someday. Not as an educator, but as manager of St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store.
She has worked at 920 E Charles St., for the past 12 years. Operated by the St. Vincent dePaul Society, the store offers low-cost clothing, furniture, and other necessities. The society also helps Muncie's marginalized and disabled populations with utility bills and food delivery, among other needs.
Taverna is also an associate member of the St. Vincent dePaul Society. The Society and the Thrift Store are blessed to have volunteers from all three Catholic parishes in Muncie to help in their works in serving the needy in the community. Nancy has been a member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church all her life. Growing up in Muncie, it has been her education, religion, and career.
The thrift store is right across the street from the church. St. Lawrence owns the building where the store is located. The church is happy to rent this space to the store so that they can assist the community.
"If I didn't need the income, I would come here every day and work for free," Taverna said. "I just love it here."
The main drive for the St. Vincent dePaul Society is to help people. The society is named after St. Vincent dePaul, or "father of the poor," who was a priest dedicated to serving those in need. The St. Vincent dePaul Society of Muncie has the same desires.
The local Society and Thrift Store report to the National society which is in St. Louis, Missouri. The society is run by a Catholic organization, but the store doesn't push religion. Last year, the society made more than 500 home visits and deliveries, helped 1900+ with food issues, helped more than 500 families with rent and utilities, donated Christmas presents to 70 families, and donated free clothing to 550 families.
St. Vincent tries it's best to provide free clothing, utility/rent help, and free food and delivery. Besides the help from the society, Taverna must keep the store running from profits reliant on donations, volunteers, and the help from her friend, Beth Barnes. They are the only two paid staff members.
Barnes, assistant manager at St. Vincent dePaul, started out as a volunteer for a few months and was then offered a job, mainly in charge of setting up and designing displays. She will be an employee of nine years come August.
"It's something that comes natural to me. I see it in my head." Barnes said. "I organize everything, so I'm a very organized person.
She takes this talent back to her own home and keeps the place decorated with her ever changing style. Proudly showing pictures of the newest room makeover, with bright linens and curtains, Barnes shares, "I sew too," with a smile, "Whatever my little heart desires."
Taverna and Barnes share a love for the same aspect of the store — its customers.
"It lets me see the difference in people," Barnes said. "I get to learn different cultures, and the different ways people were brought up."
Clothes that don't fit, dishes that aren't used, jewelry that isn't worn finds a new home, temporarily. St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store accepts donations of clothing and household goods. Any overflow is donated to Muncie Mission, which operates two Attic Window thrift stores.
The success of the thrift store relies on its community to donate and volunteer. Taverna said the store maintains about 80 volunteers, who help keep its' doors open Tuesday through Saturday. Everything sold at the store is marked at greatly reduced prices.
"We have the ladies who are in their 90's" Taverna said, "They mostly come in on Tuesdays to help sort linens and clothing donations."
Volunteers at the thrift store can organize clothing and household items, revamp the store for the change of season, price and tag items, run the register, and greet customers.
"You couldn't ask for a better crew," Taverna said. "We sometimes have different opinions like where to put things, but we always work it out."
Compared to Goodwill, local thrift stores, like St. Vincent can share more of their profits with the community, because they only have a few staff members to pay. Goodwill needs a lot more employees to keep it operating.
"90% of our inventory is on the floor." Barnes said. "What you see is what you get and all of our profits we put back into the Muncie community, like rent and groceries and services."
Just like how these hallways used to create school memories, they are now lined with pieces telling a story of the community that donated them. Barnes and Taverna work hard so their community can thrive, and in that way so do they.
More memories are made there every day by the Muncie community who donates, works, and shops at St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store. Learn more about St. Vincent dePaul Society and thrift store on Facebook (svdpmuncie) or at the St. Vincent dePaul Society Website.
Thrift Store Information
⦁ Address: 920 E Charles St. Muncie, Indiana
⦁ Call (765) 282-2842
Anyone in the Muncie community needing free clothing, utility/rent help, and free food and/or delivery can call (765)-254-9513. Leave name, number, and reason for calling and St. Vincent will get back within 72 hours.