Spring 2017

Retail Centres and the Vincentian identity

Rick Stankiewicz: Vice President Retail Centres, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia

How did you first become involved with the Society?

Through an invitation from a friend in my local parish.

As Vice President of Retail Centres, how do you see the Society’s role in retail evolving?

In reaching out to our communities to fulfil Frederic Ozanam’s vision, Vincentians recognise that we and our companions have needs well beyond the material.

More often than we would like to experience, however, we become aware of the need for basic material support—food, clothing and housing. Sadly, those material needs are growing.

Retail Centres have traditionally been a conduit for providing clothing. They have now become the main source of funds available to finance our many other services. Some $170 million nationally is now generated each year (before covering the many costs involved), with $70 million available for our services—and we continue to provide clothing, bedding and other homewares for those unable to purchase them through their own means.

To meet the many challenges in the competitive world of retail we need to become even more successful.

We need to actively seek out and identify ways and means to increase our revenues. For this purpose we need to increase the number of stores and to attract more customers. We must support the professional development of our staff and volunteers and improve how we collect, deliver and present the generous donations intended for sale.

Importantly, we have a distinctive Vincentian identity which will ensure the success of our Retail Centres to achieve their potential to meet the needs of the communities. That identity includes an authentic welcome and attentive service for our customers, respect for the dignity of our companions, and an evident appreciation for our donors’ generosity. A critical element of our identity is the purpose to which the retail revenues are directed.

We also need to recognise that the Retail Centres are the most tangible public face of the Society in the community and increasingly so. Our communities of staff and volunteers must grow to ‘exude’ the Society spirit and identity. This is the most important step in the Retail Centres’ evolution—success will increase community support for our activities, the work of our conferences, grow the retail business and enable our companions to more fully address their potential.

Ben Hoh, Design Director at Future Friendly, the organisers and facilitators of National Congress 2017

What is your position at Future Friendly?

I’m the Design Director, which means I ultimately look after all the things we need to do to make an experience meaningful—from discovering the needs and motivations of those we serve, to developing concepts with those people that will create positive change, to deciding what colour something should be.

Did you know a lot about the St Vincent de Paul Society before organising the congress?

My dad’s been a conference member for many decades, and so I learned about the Society as a child … when some of my favourite toys went ‘missing’, only to end up with a family in need during his home visitations!

What types of events or activities can members of the Society expect at the congress?

Because this congress is going to be workshop-oriented, it’s going to be very immediate and hands-on—this isn’t an event to ratify documents in the abstract. We have some great speakers lined up that will inspire and challenge you, but primarily we are concentrating on making it a space for people to establish trust with each other and to work together in the here and now to kick-start some new initiatives in the Society.

It’ll be a little different to what attendees might be used to, and we know that working together isn’t always comfortable—we’re counting on all of us to help each other move out of our comfort zones a bit—but it is always exciting and rewarding.

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