The Van Elslander Family Center at 3000 Gratiot Avenue in Detroit is on the former site of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's main warehouse, which was destroyed by fire on December 15, 1995.
St. Vincent de Paul, Detroit collaborates with other community agencies in providing specialized programs to help individuals and families lift themselves up and out of poverty. The Center houses a Head Start center, dental care clinic, a clothing referral center, a SVdP Thrift Store and legal services.
Center Mission Partners & Services
History of the Van Elslander Family Center
On December 15, 1995 a devastating fire wiped out the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Detroit Warehouse. Along with the building nearly one million dollars worth of clothing, furniture, appliances, bicycles, and other goods were lost. Metro Detroiters came out in full force to help the group in their efforts that first Christmas. In the few years that followed, the community continued to reach out. The Society went out into the community and conducted a study to determine the needs of the lower eastside area. It was determined that other services were needed in addition to providing clothes and furniture that the Society did in the past at this location. High on the list of needs were: child care, job placement and job training, parenting classes and medical care.
The Board of Trustees formed a Capital Campaign Cabinet to develop plans to raise funds for a multi-service center that included other organizations providing key services to the community. The board called upon Art Van Elslander to lead the newly formed Capital Campaign. The Van Elslander Family, and many other generous donors, donated the funds needed to build a new facility that not only met the needs of the old warehouse, but also expanded St. Vincent de Paul’s commitment to the people of Detroit.
The Detroit Collaborative Design Center at the University of Detroit Mercy and SmithGroup, a large architecture and engineering firm, designed the new facility. In May of 2000, the Van Elslander Family Center opened its doors for the first time. The new building occupies the same site as the original warehouse, a symbol of St. Vincent de Paul’s continuing commitment to Detroit. It was the intent of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that this building would be uplifting for the community. That is why you see bright colors both on the outside and in the suites and hallways. These colors and the modern, futuristic touches are to serve people in an exciting, bright and hopeful environment.