By Karen Boeck
Every weekday one of our District St. Vincent de Paul Conferences travels to a building on the church grounds in El Mirage to serve a morning meal to those in need. Our council day are Thursdays. For years, a group of volunteers took on the challenge and did a wonderful job, until the pandemic hit and our team scattered. With changes and the loss of our team, our conference was challenged to find a way to serve the needy. Fortunately, the manager continued, and we were able to find workers to serve and hand out meals from the doorway.
Last year when the manager retired, we needed to find a replacement. Now that we are serving back in the dining room, we have two permanent volunteers from the team leaders Mike Ward, and Roz Shafer, and a bunch of Vincentians volunteers making great progress.
Food is brought to our location from our downtown headquarters. Our food arrives around 8:15 am and around nine people are there to help unpack the hot foods, sandwiches, breads, and desserts. Supplies vary with what is available at the downtown kitchen. Food is ready and our team works together serving, refreshing, and keeping supplies out and available. Many guests come daily to enjoy the food, camaraderie and to get out of the weather – be it hot or cold. Guests may take out meals plus a supply of food items and bottled water.
We are currently working to provide more assistance to those living out in the open. Many of us started bringing our discarded winter clothing to help care for their needs. A coat drive at our parish was suggested and we received tremendous support! Seventeen boxes of coats were received going to both Santa Teresita and our downtown distribution center. Our district gave our conference money for clothing, underwear, socks, and personal items; many items were bought at thrift stores. A request for clothing was sent out on nextdoor.com and our community responded very graciously, in fact we are still receiving goods!
The team suggested we provide meals of leftover food and distribute them to individuals down the street who are trying to get work from those who pass by. How delighted they are as we drive up with hot coffee and meals. Last week seventeen workers received food that would have been discarded.
We still struggle a bit as we try to get a team together every week. Soon we believe we will find those who would like to become a part of “the family that works together”. We are not all Catholics or Vincentians, just people who care and want to help. Together we can unite and help those who need food, clothing, and someone to care! We learned that hot showers are now available, along with medical assistance, haircuts, and pet care, at the Salvation Army at the Avenue of the Arts in Surprise. Hours are limited but what a wonderful feeling for those who can find their way to use these facilities! We have also been graciously endowed with backpacks from City Serve for our neighbors in need.
In these times of trial, we at Saint Vincent de Paul are helping to feed, house, clothe, and heal – with the help of our SVdP headquarters, our parish, and our community.