Strengthen your spirit by serving others?
There’s a group of people who devote their time to help people across neighborhood’s throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region. Many of you may recognize the name only because you have shopped in, driven by, or donated to one of their thrift stores – St. Vincent de Paul.
But this organization, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) helps our neighbors and communities in many more ways than just by the stores we see.
It’s the things we don’t see happening every day that can make the biggest difference in people’s lives.
James Taylor, of the Pittsburgh area’s Society of SVdP says, “We help all populations that are in need. We do not discriminate on the basis of race or religious affiliation. If you are in need, we try to help if we can. The work is important because no person should go without clothing, food, or shelter and there have to be organizations like St. Vincent de Paul to help people who need that assistance.”
Now that is what it’s all about, isn’t it folks? No one. No-One-Person should ever go without those basic needs.
Al Bannon, a Vincentian who volunteers his time and one-to-one help for families in need living in the Crafton area, describes his involvement, “The main goal (of a Vincentian) is to develop themselves spiritually, and it is by helping others and doing God’s work that builds our spirituality. I didn’t realize before I became a member that this was a vocation; that it’s a calling that God wants you to do. I just wanted to help people.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul needs your help on October 3 during Pittsburgh Gives Day of Giving. This is the one day each year where your online donations of at least $25, given to any participating nonprofit, can earn additional funds from a match pool given by The Pittsburgh Foundation.
What can those Day of Giving (DOG) donations do for SVdP?
“The funding from DOG will allow us to reach more people. The additional funding would help us purchase new beds for clients who are sleeping on the floor. It would allow us to help pay many more gas, water, and electric bills and (assist with) rent. It would allow us to be able to purchase more food for our food pantry; we could help with more indigent burials. It would help us reach and help more people,” says Mr. Taylor.
Have they seen an increase in the need for assistance in the last year?
“Our Food pantry has had to increase the amount of food it orders from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. We have had to hold more food drives than before to help fill in the gaps.
Many of our local St. Vincent de Paul conferences are seeing an increase in people needing financial assistance, furniture assistance, and clothing assistance requests. In response to this increased need, conferences (or each of the smaller, local, and independent extensions of SVdP) have had to stretch their increasing small funds in order to reach as many people as possible.
We have seen an increase in people seeking clothing and furniture vouchers as well. Luckily, we are still receiving donations from our generous donors.”
If you would like to donate clothing, household items, or furniture you can do so by calling 412-321-1071 and selecting ‘option one’ to schedule a pick-up.
St. Vincent de Paul also reaches formerly incarcerated individuals in a residential facility, named Michael’s Place.
Yearly, 29 people are helped at this temporary home for ex-offenders who are “ready to commit themselves to making good decisions for a productive future.” Currently, the cost per resident is slightly under $10,000.
Those who work at Michaels’s Place remind us that “sometimes it is difficult not to judge others on the mistakes they have made. We might look upon a person struggling with addiction or with a past record with contempt, saying ‘he should have known better.’”
By taking some time to “walk in their shoes,” and understand how they can truly help these men, they work without judgment to help them build a fresh and positive future. For more from former Michael’s Place graduates, see this post.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international organization with over 900,000 members and operates in over 130 countries. The SVdP Council of Pittsburgh began in 1852 and is made up of 111 Conferences that serve, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Allegheny, and Washington Counties.
Mr. Bannon shares a few final thoughts on why following the call to help others is important to those who choose to work within SVdP. “I’ve been a member for 18 years and I have never regretted one moment of it. For us, there are two main reasons (to become a member). One is that you’ll become a better Catholic and a better person. And two, you’ll be helping those in need. You will have a stronger love for your neighbor.”
Simply Put – Show the strength of love for your neighbors and help St. Vincent de Paul with your matched donation on Pittsburgh’s Day of Giving.
I’m taking the CHS (Community Human Services) Food Stamp Challenge this week. Live on a $6.50 food budget per day. Sounds easy? Not if you want to eat healthy.
I’m a vegetarian by choice. Seems like my budget should be low. Nope. The healthier I try to eat, the more expensive it becomes. I only drink water (and coffee in the mornings), so that cuts down that area of the budget.
Day 1. I cheated and bought some of the food “take-out”. Because I procrastinated and didn’t plan today’s meal.
AM: 1 serving cottage cheese and a bagel, plain; coffee with generic brand flavored creamer.
Cost: about $1.80
Lunch: A veggie sub w/cheese from Sheetz. Bought a 12 inch so I could have the other 6 inch for dinner
Evening snack: 3 pretzel rods and a banana.
Cost: $0.47 Total for the day: 1.80+3.98+.47= $6.25 ($0.25 under budget and about 300 calories under the suggested 1200 calorie intake.)
No breakfast as I ran out the door for a meeting. Which is good because I spent
$2.47 X 2 on coffee since we met at The Coffee Tree and it would have seemed weird to not get coffee. I could say it was a business expense, but if I was living on a tight budget, that would have been my reality.
Lunch was however paid for at the next meeting. Thankfully.
Ate the non-meat sides from the meal I made my children. High in carbs, low in protein. Added a salad.
My portion of the cost- about $2.00.
A package of cheese crackers as a snack later- $.50
Total for the day- $7.44 (.$94 over budget)
I wake up hungry. I do not usually want to eat right away, but today I do.
Cereal with milk- $0.75 Banana- about $.27 Coffee with creamer. Total- $1.72
Lunch- MSF Chix patty on a Sandwich Thin with sprinkle of grated cheese. Cost: $1.65
Dinner- I forgot to write it down. And by Thursday I was so tired, cranky and hungry, that I just can’t remember what I ate.
Snack, Nutella on 4 pieces/(1)Graham cracker- about $.23 Total w/o dinner- $3.60
You get the idea of how I had to keep track of every bite I had, so I’m going to let that part go and tell you what happened now.
You see, I was getting hungry and tired. It was so frustrating to not just be able to go grab something from the cupboard and eat. Trying to dollar out every meal, every choice was nerve wracking.
And if you think this isn’t the way it is for people eating on a budget, if you think they are so lucky because their budget is provided with food stamps- DON’T.
It’s exhausting worrying about making the best choices for nutrition this way. By Friday, I almost gave up. I have personally had this struggle before- where I maybe only had an extra $40 to put a week’s worth of groceries on the table for 5 of us. I did not put my kids through that again, but I chose to do it because I think it reminds me to be humble now that times are better.
The hardest part was trying to eat healthy. If you put a lot of forethought into it and really work at buying things that can be used multiple days during the week, it is possible. Sort of. Fresh foods cost more and run out more quickly. But it is time consuming and like most people, we have a busy life here. I spent so much time focused on food.
By Friday, I had no salad components, the fruit was gone and I was feeling fatigued and stressed out from calculating how to feel full on a budget. And, other than those crackers, I had no budget to buy anything “sweet” or “snacky.”
It did not feel good to go to bed hungry every night.
By Saturday, when the offer was made to take me to lunch during PodCamp, I was almost in tears from hunger. It just so happened that the week of the Challenge, I had people offer to take me out to eat. I would not have been able to do that if I had really been dealing with poverty issues. But, I felt guilty that my $14+ tab at Tavern 245(double my budget for the whole day) had been picked up. So…
I ate breakfast on Sunday because I knew I had to be sharp-minded to present my PodCamp session. But, I skipped lunch because had I needed to pay for it, my week’s budget had already been busted. It sucked to not be able to join with the other #pcpgh6 -ers like I wanted. It felt horrible to not be able to socialize through a meal with such a fun and intelligent group of people. But, I had taken the challenge and had that been my reality, I would have lost out on that social situation.
If you have never done a food stamp challenge, you do not need to be invited by a group to do it. I challenge you to do it on your own. Can you make it through even 3 or 4 days?
On Monday, when I could eat as I wanted, the relief was so great and the stress so reduced, that I could function again and had a very productive week. It’s amazing what hunger does to a person.