The Vancouver Central Council was instituted 1991, evolving from the Vancouver Particular Council (that had been in operation since 1915) and necessitated by the birth of many new Conferences in the lower mainland. That year, the National Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, came to Vancouver for its AGM. During the AGM, our three Particular Councils were formed; one in Vancouver proper, another comprising the cities north of the Fraser River (North Fraser), and a third covering the vast area south of the Fraser River (East- West Fraser), with the Central Council to serve and unite them.
At its inception, Central Council operated out of a little rented office above Sam’s Auto Shop on 18th at Main, under the leadership of its first President, Tom O’Flynn, with Rose Morin and Jim Kelly serving as Secretary and Treasurer. By 1994, a building came up for sale on Main Street near 12th Avenue. It was the goal of Central Council to have a building with a Thrift Store and a Social Concerns Office. The building was purchased and the Thrift Store opened in June. The original 1500 sq ft were soon expanded into the 3000 sq ft that stand today. Besides offering quality items at reasonable costs, the Thrift Shop also donates clothing and furniture to those unable to pay, and gives bags of bread and non-perishable food to our customers in need.
By 2001, the National AGM was again held in Vancouver, hosted by Central Council at UBC. During the Banquet after the final Mass (held at St. Helen’s Church in Burnaby) we literally burned the mortgage of the building which was paid in full.
In 2005, the opportunity to purchase a second store arose. In April, Central Council purchased the building on Hastings at Commercial Drive. After extensive renovations, the second store was ready for business. With 4500 sq ft the new location served as a Thrift Store, a warehouse, and the new headquarters for Central Council. Although the Hastings Store struggled for some time, today in 2013, both stores are doing well. Some of our volunteers have been working at the Stores since they first opened in 1994.
Although the Social Concerns Office has not yet become a reality, Central Council, with the help of all the conferences in the lower main land, also operates an Outreach program, serving sandwiches, coffee, juice, and sweet rolls three evenings a week to the poor and homeless on East Hastings. Other donations are also distributed to those in need including clothing, sleep bags, and many other personal care items. Volunteers come from far and wide to help make the sandwiches and serve our guests, bringing friendship and assistance to their ‘home’ on the streets.
The Vancouver Central Council would like to thank all Vincentians – both volunteers and staff- for their dedication to the Society and to the poor.