The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) is best known for the thrift stores it operates, but less well known for the important safety net it provides to the neediest in our communities. Founded in 1833 by Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam to serve the poor on the streets of Paris, SVdP has grown into an international network of charities active in 142 countries. Its primary mission is person-to-person outreach to address the needs of the impoverished
Through its five thrift stores, three Homeless Help Centers, a Family Resource Center and a Restorative Justice Ministry, the San Mateo County SVdP is working to meet basic survival needs and to help break the cycle of poverty. Everyday necessities are provided to the homeless such as meals, bus tokens, showers, haircuts and sleeping bags. Those precariously housed are served by home visits arranged through the Family Resource Center. Volunteers go out in teams of two delivering groceries, vouchers for the thrift store and rent or utility assistance. Both victims of crime and the incarcerated receive support from the chaplains in restorative justice. Employment opportunities and re-entry programs are also in place to provide guidance to those coming out of incarceration.
I began volunteering for home visits with SVdP a couple of years ago. In addition to food and clothing, our conference decided that transportation was another need we could fill, so we organized the first ever SVdP Bike Drive.
People from all over the local community took the opportunity to clean out their garages and brought us their bikes. We collected 117 bikes of all shapes and sizes that were distributed to day laborers, farm workers and families with children. All were thrilled to receive them. Some even learned to ride a bike for the first time!
If you are considering a year-end donation of any kind, financial, clothing, furniture or household items, please join me in supporting SVdP. Go to svdpsm.org and decide how best you can give. Help us help others. We appreciate your generosity.
Our local SVdP conference will be collecting books in the spring for online resale to raise money for all SVdP programs and for distribution during home visits. Text books, business books, self-help/motivational books, children’s books and biographies are especially welcome. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.