There are three cars and a motorhome behind the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store in Sutherlin on a Friday afternoon, but Director Rod Linton knows another donation could come any day.
The Sutherlin nonprofit location received a dealership license in November.
The store previously redirected car donations to the Eugene location, which is wholly independent of the Sutherlin location, but Linton received a dealership license in November.
“It’s new for this location here,” Linton said. “It’s been working out really well here. People are really interested. People want to know where the money goes when they donate and they are very happy to know it stays right here in Douglas County.”
He said he encouraged the other St. Vincent de Paul locations in Douglas County not to deny car donations, but to send them to the Sutherlin location because the funds go back to the whole county.
“To me, one car that we sell is a mountain of clothes,” Linton said. “With one car, we can assist three or four or five families depending on the value of the car – with rental assistance, or with utility assistance or with food or whatever they come into our ministry office with a need for.
He felt the same way about furniture pickups, which he started doing shortly after he took over as director two years ago with a volunteer’s pickup truck.
“The whole front part, the furniture has kind of taken over,” Linton said.
St Vincent de Paul has been in Sutherlin since 1998 as a thrift store and has expanded to take over almost the whole block Linton said. He started volunteering at the thrift store about three years ago.
“At the time, it seemed pretty big, now it seems pretty small because there’s just not enough room for everything,” Linton said.
When he takes a donated car, he does what little things he can, like replace headlights and batteries, but the store doesn’t have a shop or a mechanic to bring cars back from the dead. He tries to make sure people get a good deal by picking the lowest price for similar cars in the market.
“I try to emphasize, if someone wants to donate help out St. Vincent de Paul’s, a running vehicle, at least for Sutherlin is the way to go,” Linton said. “I try to sell them cheaper than market value so that whoever is buying it is getting a deal on it also. That’s kind of the MO of the store period. We try to sell quality goods at a decent price.”
With car donations, he needs a series of paperwork which can vary from car to car. Even at a discount, Linton said the car, boat and RV sales make a huge difference in the mission’s reach.
“It does take a little bit of time and a little bit of paperwork, but it’s well worth it,” Linton said. “I just felt like we were missing a lot of opportunity both with the furniture and the car dealership. It’s proven itself to be that I was thinking in the right direction because it’s definitely made a big difference in the bottom line of our ministry.”
If donors specify they want the car to be donated to a family in need, Linton can give it away, but otherwise the cars are sold and the money goes to the mission’s other programs.
“Sometimes when the need is there, it’s kind of tough not to go in that direction,” Linton said. “Christ gave freely, we try to do the same, though I’m not quite perfect at it yet.”
The revenue from a brown RV in the parking lot is already reserved for a heating system for a woman in Sutherlin whose heating system went out right before the record-breaking snowstorm in February.
“There are so many days when it’s like, what would those people have done if we weren’t here?” Linton said. “The sale of that motorhome is basically covering her new heat pump. It’s things like that that make it worthwhile.”