A century ago, two Vincentians, W.J. Coogan and D. Mulquinney, joined eight other Society Brothers on a working bee that continues to have profound repercussions for the Society and retailing across Australia.

In 1922, they gathered on a site in Newtown, close to the current Vinnies shop, to create what a hand-lettered sign behind them proclaimed to be the “St Vincent de Paul Waste Collection Depot”. They created a canny business model – the collecting, storing and, where necessary, repairing of unwanted items that could be sold to raise funds for charitable purposes. No item was too big or too small to be ferreted away: “Last week’s deliveries included a cartload of furniture, another of timber and glass from a demolished building, a wire dummy such as is used by dressmakers, a bath, and a couple of wash-tubs,” one newspaper reported.

“It will be seen that nothing, from a needle to an anchor, goes to waste at the depot, and everything means money for the Society’s good works.” Nowadays, nobody wants second-hand needles and few need anchors, but the Society’s retail presence has expanded throughout NSW with a total of 227 Vinnies shops and annual revenue of $67.6 million. The profits from the sale of goods helps Vinnies to assist around 300,000 people experiencing disadvantage and homelessness in NSW each year, as well as keeping items out of landfill.

On 27 October 2022, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW celebrated 100 Years of Vinnies Shops with a celebration at our Newtown shop. Jenny Leong MP attended and spoke about the impact of the work of Vinnies in communities across the state. As the Society’s founder, Frédéric Ozanam, noted many years before: “When one does a deed of charity one need not worry about where the money will come from: it will always come.” In other words, one person’s outgrown dress is someone else’s cherished Dior.

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