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Generosity enables thrift store to grow

The St. Vincent de Paul store will more than double with a 6,000-square-foot addition. Organizers say the expansion would be impossible without donations.

Less than a year after its grand opening, Spring Hill's St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store is set to more than double in size.

Organizers plan to break ground next week on a 6,000-square-foot addition to the original 5,000-square-foot facility.

Bob Frank, president of the Citrus and Hernando county district of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said it was always the charity's intention to have a larger building on the 2-acre plot on Kass Circle.

"We had an idea that we wanted 10,000 square feet initially," Frank said. "But money was a factor.

Ten months after the store opened, shelves are packed with bric-a-brac and dishware. Along the opposite wall, stuffed animals and board games crowd fold-out tables. The store's back room is brimming with couches, televisions and lamps.

The addition will be put on the store's east side and will be the same type of prefabricated metal construction as the original building, Frank said.

"It's like a big Erector set," he said.

Inside the store on Tuesday, a group of volunteers sat around a break room table deciding how to best divide the new building into retail space, break room, restrooms, sorting room, storage rooms and dressing rooms.

"None of this would be possible without the donations that come in from the public," said Marvin Brower, a St. Vincent volunteer. "If we weren't getting all these things in to sell, we wouldn't be able to do any of this."

The charity's financial objectives are to put money aside for the $100,000 expansion and to pay the $180,000 mortgage on the original building, Frank said.

"Once our building is paid, we will be able to put more and more back into the community," said Frank, who also serves as an alternate member of the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Money from thrift store sales benefits the charity's on-site food pantry. Since the food pantry opened in August, officials say, it has helped about 300 families with food, clothing and furniture.

"When you get into this, it's amazing what a need there is out there," volunteer Walt Wiedeman said. "If someone has a need, we help them no matter who they are. This is not just a Catholic charity."

During a cold snap last winter, Wiedeman met a woman in a threadbare sweater at the food pantry. When the woman told him her house had no heat, he added a coat and an electric blanket to her box of food.

"Those are the things that make it all worthwhile," he said.

About 70 volunteers run the thrift store and food pantry, Frank said, but more may be needed with the extra space.

"The truth is, we should probably have more now," he said. "But I guess that's always the case."

The thrift store is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Frank said construction will not affect store hours.