The Miracle on 37th Street

Cecil Clayton was one of about fifty people who attended last Saturday’s grand reopening and blessing of the newly renovated St. Vincent de Paul Outreach Ministry Center in East St. Louis.

Clayton, 65, who walks with the assistance of a cane, utilizes the center every day. “I wash my clothes, take a shower, and eat lunch here every day but Sunday,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing. I couldn’t get by with out them.”

Clayton said he is homeless and spends nights sleeping in abandoned buildings around town.

The newly renovated St. Vincent de Paul Center was tailor-made for people like Clayton.

Pat Hogrebe, executive director of the center, and the board of directors worked for years to raise funds for the long-overdue renovation.

The “Miracle on 37th street” as it was called, was witnessed Feb. 17, with the blessing and grand reopening of the new facility.

Hundreds of people stopped by the center to see the newly renovated facility and congratulate staff.

The renovation was due in part to $500,000 worth of donated labor and materials and about $300,000 in donations.

“This is where the homeless and broken go when they have nowhere else to go,” said Vice President Joe Hubbard. “We all hit a pothole once in a while. This facility will be there to pick them up.”

The center is a one-stop shop for the needy. They can grab a hot meal, take a shower, do their laundry, sign up for an ID card, pick up a new suit of clothes for a job interview, and even get help with their doctors bills and utilities.

Hogrebe especially thanked volunteer John Holland who ran the construction project. “Without John this could not have happened,” she said. “He came in everyday during the renovation. We were extremely blessed to have John.”

Holland shrugged off the praise and said, “I saw the mission and they really needed some help so I felt compelled to provide as much as I could.”

Hubbard called the renovation a team effort and thanked workers who volunteered their labor. “The unions came through beautifully for us.”

The center serves between 200-300 persons a day. “It is really critical that we are here,” Hubbard said.

The new space features a gathering room to interact and connect with people through support and direct service.
In addition, a variety of activities are offered throughout the week, including:

• A new customer care counter where persons can receive individualized attention to an immediate concern.

• A help center, manned by qualified volunteers to assist individuals in getting personal indentification and state ID’s, as well as assistance and referalls for other emergent needs or during a personal crisis.

• Congrove’s Soup Kitchen has doubled its size and capacity.

The renovated facility also boasts a coffee bar, a shower room, a laundry center, a transportation assistance program, job skill classes, budgeting and resume classes, a computer center (computers are still needed), health screenings, voucher services, tax preparation, and other programs.