By Beth Lema
“It’s amazing how the world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee.” Donna Favors
This quote epitomizes our St. Vincent de Paul Coffee Set Ministry. On a diocesan level, St. Vincent de Paul has been providing coffee, conversation, and much needed financial assistance, in addition to food, support and love through its many volunteer ministries. These needs increased during the Covid pandemic, and the volunteers who normally would help found themselves trying to stay safe and avoid crowds. Since precautions were being taken by all of us, the home volunteer ministers of St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) became more important than ever. During that time our SVDP member Veronica French searched online and found a wonderful ministry.
It’s called the Coffee Set ministry. Their volunteers put together bags containing the basic necessities needed for when a person has a cup of coffee. These bags are a simple way to provide supplies for enjoying coffee that not only encourage the conversation that goes over a good cup of coffee, but could also possibly change someone’s life. The bag is a simple zip lock bag with one Napkin, one Stir Stick, two Creamer packets, and three Sugars.
Veronica contacted the downtown office to receive the supplies, gathered her family together at her home, and began to fill hundreds of bags. Once this was finished, she returned the completed bags to the downtown location. As her family gathered around the kitchen table, they were sharing this time together as the family of Christ, spreading the love for others though filling these much-needed bags.
As the pandemic was winding down, Veronica approached our SVDP board with the idea of bringing this ministry to the parish. So, the SVDP Coffee Set Ministry was born. It is a great ministry that anyone can partake in, with no formal training needed. Volunteers currently meet twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at 10:00 am in the Guadalupe room of the parish.
This ministry has flourished with many volunteers who come to serve the needs of others, including Betsy Malkowski, who has now heard the call to help and has volunteered to help Veronica. When asked about how they would describe this ministry, the service volunteers said that they found it provided spirituality, fellowship, service to the poor and opportunities for all members of the parish to serve. They feel useful, welcoming, and worthwhile and experience love and friendship. Through their opening prayers and the looks on their faces, their smiles and the conversation at the tables as they put the bags together, I experienced the true sign of how God works within all of us to serve the needs of others. Each of these volunteers heard the call and answered. Please consider attending one of these sessions and joining in this great ministry of service.
Napkin of Love
Vincent de Paul cared for the poor and wanted to treat them with dignity. He hooked up with Louise de Marillac and founded the Sisters of Charity, which today is one of the largest women’s organization in the world. Vincent taught them how to help the poor with humility and treat them with dignity. One of the key elements was to always place a napkin on their tray. The Napkin was a symbol of prestige as only rich people had napkins. So, Vincent stressed, “place the NAPKIN on the tray when you served the poor”, Rosalie Randu, also a Sister of Charity, would almost two centuries later teach our founder Frederic Ozanam and his colleagues how to serve the poor. Today, we include a napkin in the coffee sets we provide our guests at the Ministry to the Homeless in our downtown facility.