A Gift that Keeps Giving
For many years, Peru’s St. Vincent DePaul Society has operated its downtown location inside a modest rented storefront, a space packed to the rafters with donations of clothing, housewares, books, toys and more. Staff and volunteers sort and process the items in a small storage area and then offer them for sale to help fund programs for families and individuals struggling to makes ends meet.
The need is great, and the dedicated staff at the thrift store work hard to meet demands within their limited space. The idea of relocating to a bigger and better building seemed out of reach, until a call from a member of American Legion Post #14 made the dream a reality.
The Legion, which provides support and advocacy for veterans, active military members, and their families, had occupied the lodge since its construction in 1948. Post #14 saw its membership spike in the 1950s, as veterans from both the World Wars and Korean War found camaraderie within its walls.
Today the stately landmark is a virtual architectural time capsule. Buff colored brick covers the understated Art Deco lodge, highlighted with simple Indiana limestone trim. Vertical bands of glass block diffuse light into the lower level as well as the upper main floor.
Shrinking membership has left the cavernous 10,000-square-foot lodge underused for almost a decade. Legion members felt their hallowed hall, located in the Downtown Peru National Register Historic District, deserved a second chance. Before the group folded, members decided to donate the building to St. Vincent DePaul.
Sara Welke, director of the St. Vincent DePaul Society thrift store, was astounded by the offer. A longtime admirer of the old Legion building, she envisions a time in the near future when it will offer abundant space for the store’s usual inventory, plus extra room to accept and distribute donations of bulky items like furniture and appliances.
The organization is working with a local architect to draft plans for updated utility systems, a new roof, and a ramp to improve accessibility. The renovation will likely cost $150,000, but the St. Vincent board and staff are committed to the challenge. “I am so grateful that we are now the custodians of this fine old building,” says Sarah. “We intend to honor the gift from the American Legion by leaving their name over the front entry, where it has always been,” she adds. “This is what a community helping each other is all about.”
For more information about the St. Vincent De Paul Society project, contact Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Northeast Field Office, 260-563-7094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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