March 18 2013 12:00 AM

St. Vincent de Paul thrift store copes with fire, tries to continue providing assistance

111219_St.Vincent.jpgMonday, Dec. 19 — The smell of charred wood is overpowering at the site of the St. Vincent de Paul store at 1020 S. Washington Ave. Every window is boarded up with new plywood. Char marks are visible around the edges of the wood. The smell of ash contrasts drastically with the Christmas wreath hanging on the front of the building. A man on a bike gazed sadly at the store as he rode past. A fire badly damaged the thrift store early Sunday morning, the store’s director Steve Maiville, said today. Maiville was at the store recovering documents that weren’t destroyed by the fire. “We don’t know about the ability to salvage the building,” Maiville said. He said the fire marshal determined the fire was accidental, but did not know what caused the blaze. The next step is to bring in the store’s insurance company to assess the damage and move forward, he added. The fire couldn’t have come at a worse time for the organization. This time of year is the busiest in terms of gathering donations before the New Year, Maiville said. It is also one of the neediest seasons for the people the store and the St. Vincent de Paul Society help. The Society is a national organization of men and women who seek to grow spiritually through charity and helping individuals and families in need, according to the national organization’s website. In addition to providing donated clothing and merchandise for discounted prices, the store also provided free clothing and household goods to families and individuals referred to the store by the society, according to the store’s website. 111219_St.Vincent_2.jpgThe store was also a major source of income for the Lansing branch of the organization, which helps thousands of families every year, Maiville said. Sales from the store brought in $20,000 to $25,000 a month, he said. “With the store gone, that income goes so we’re obviously looking to get started up as soon as possible,” Maiville said. Despite the damage, Maiville is focused on the people who depend on the store and society for services. “The people we assist are the ones that we’re really the most concerned about,” he said. Maiville said he is in the process of setting up a temporary client assistant office, which will be able to assist people while the store is out of commission. He hopes to have it set up in the next couple of days, but did not know where the office would be located or when it would open.