By CARL GREEN
East St. Louis – To Pat Hogrebe, the old building at State Street and 37th Street is now the “miracle on 37th Street.” To many East St. Louis residents, you could just call it a lifesaver.
The good work of dozens of Metro-East trades unions was on full display last month at an open house for the remodeled St. Vincent de Paul Outreach Ministry Center, an important contributor to the East St. Louis community.
For the past several months, dozens of union workers, with support from their employers, and retirees have been volunteering their talents to turn the old building at 3718 State Street on the east side of town into a sparkling, multi-purpose facility that combines a thrift store, food service and ministry center and will do no end of great works for the people who need its help.
Union workers, retirees and apprentices have participated in the renovation work, including representatives from:
• IBEW Local 309
• Floor Layers Local 1310
• Laborers Local 100
• Painters District Council 58
• Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 360
• Sheet Metal Workers Local 268
• Steamfitters Local 439
• St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council
• Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council.
‘A LONG TIME COMING’
Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Belleville Council joined with staff members and community residents for the open house, where cookies and coffee were served in a new coffee bar section that is already popular with customers and visitors.
“It was a long time coming, but it turned out really nice,” said Ortega Redd, who works in the warehouse section.”
The project was spearheaded Pat Hogrebe, executive director of the council, who said it couldn’t have happened without the help of union members. “They were so great,” she said. “I’m real happy it’s open. It gives the people the dignity they need.”
SUPPORT AND A CUP OF COFFEE
A highlight of the project is the new Gathering Room, where people enter the building and can visit the Customer Care Counter and the volunteer-manned Help Center for individual assistance. The room also includes the coffee bar, a laundry center, a shower room and will host job skills classes, a computer center, health screenings and tax preparation, among other services.
The room opens into the St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store, which showcases quality, low-cost clothing and other items in a chic-looking retail setting, and has a voucher system for those who need it. It also accepts donations, and it is supported by the warehouse area that also received a union make-over, getting cleaned, patched and painted, with floors epoxied as well.
Next to the store is Cosgrove’s Kitchen, a longtime service to the community named for a beloved bishop. It serves lunch six days a week to up to 300 people including homeless, mentally ill, disabled and elderly and now has an expanded and remodeled dining room that looks more like a restaurant than a soup kitchen. It also has a new pantry with two new walk-in freezers, plus a new walk-in cooler and appliances.
The thrift store is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and until noon on Saturday and will accept tax-deductible donations of new or gently used items.
“We could not have arrived at our destination without the support and generosity of union contributors,” Hogrebe said. “Our deepest gratitude to all who supported us during this project. We are eternally grateful and you are forever in our prayers.”
To volunteer or donate to St. Vincent de Paul’s effort, contact Hogrebe at 618-799-8505 or visit svdpsouthil.org.