ESCANABA - The Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul has been putting together Christmas baskets for the less fortunate throughout this week, a staple project of the organization. The group has been assembling baskets with food and presents for 320 families in the area. They are able to provide 556 children ages zero to 18 with presents this holiday season.
Organizers say approximately $10,000 was spent this year on the food baskets in addition to any donations the St. Vincent de Paul has received. The baskets will be delivered to families this Friday.
The Christmas basket project is an annual event, but there are many other services St. Vincent de Paul provides the needy in this area of which many are not aware.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
The warehouse of JC’s Gas and Weld Supply in Escanaba was a busy place Wednesday as St. Vincent de Paul volunteers worked to pack Christmas food baskets and presents for 320 local families in need. Above, volunteers are at work picking out appropriate presents to accompany the food baskets. Donations were at record numbers this year.
According to information compiled by the Escanaba St. Vincent de Paul, the organization offers a healthy meal in their soup kitchen each Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also house the Care Free Dental Clinic, where residents of Delta County who have no dental insurance can receive basic dental care on Wednesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. There is no cost for the clinic, but donations are accepted for those able to do so.
Most services are provided through the client services office, open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People come to the office and confidentially discuss individual needs with trained volunteers.
For example, the St. Vincent De Paul provides help with heat, utilities, rent, shelter, food, prescription assistance, medical referrals, referrals for drug and alcohol abuse, and budget counseling on a regular basis.
Not every request can be granted, noted Escanaba St. Vincent De Paul warehouse manager Terry Saunders, but all requests are prayerfully considered in light of individual and societal circumstances.
So far this year, the society has spent nearly $94,000 on food assistance, approximately $42,500 and $45,000 on rent and utilities assistance for people in need. They have assisted approximately 2,170 individuals with services so far this year and 2,343 families with their food needs.
People are helped in other areas of their lives as well, such as in obtaining a GED, finding housing, and obtaining employment or medical care. St. Vincent De Paul works with all local government supported agencies and other charities to help people in the most productive and cost effective ways.
"Everyone is treated with dignity and respect here," said Saunders. "Employees, volunteers and people who come here are all treated with dignity and respect, because that's the way Jesus would have us do it. It's so recognizable that the disadvantaged in America ... our country has failed them. Our families are breaking down, our schools do not teach moral systems, our government is beyond repair. The only thing that we have is Jesus."
Saunders said the organization tries to teach Judeo-Christian values and personal responsibility to the clients they meet in an effort to better their lives and give them direction.
The St. Vincent De Paul also provides short-term emergency shelter for the homeless. There are two sleeping rooms on site, but they also operate a men's shelter in North Town which currently houses six men, and a women's shelter in Escanaba that currently can only house two women.
The St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store is located at 104 Ludington St. All proceeds from the store are used to help the needy in the area, and is run by a limited number of employees - largely dependent on volunteer support. The organization's warehouse located on the 800 block of 1st Ave. North stores donated furniture and other items that are distributed to the needy, though the group also receives donations of clothing and other household items at the warehouse. Items are sorted and either sold in the store, donated to the needy, or recycled. Donations are accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the alley located at back of the warehouse. To make arrangements to pick up furniture donations, call 789-1281.
St. Vincent De Paul recycles used clothing, shoes, belts, purses, stuffed toys and other household items which can be sold to used clothing dealers and brokers across the country. All proceeds obtained from this are used to help the needy.
And, of course, there's the group's food pantry, which operates out of the warehouse. Food drives are held by various community organizations and donations from parishes, and other caring individuals. St. Vincent De Paul provides approximately $9,000 a month in food assistance to the area needy.
The St. Vincent De Paul in Gladstone also provides similar services, according to Shirley Rabitoy, who works in client services. The Gladstone St. Vincent De Paul operates a food pantry for the needy and a thrift store, located at 816 Delta Ave.
"We do pay electric bills ... and rent," said Rabitoy. "We help people pay bills and get them established in different places so they're not on the street, and gas if they need to go to the doctor's."
The organization also assembles Christmas baskets for needy families each year featuring a variety of different foods. The group is able to service a couple thousand people, said Rabitoy.
For more information on the services of the Gladstone St. Vincent De Paul, call 428-9690.
The Society of St. Vincent De Paul obtains money to run the charity from local parishes and donations from citizens. Community and parish donations are strictly used for assisting the needy in the immediate area.
The Society of St. Vincent De Paul is an international volunteer Catholic organization dedicated to the spiritual growth of its members and service to the poor and disadvantaged. Founded in Paris, France, in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, the society has been named after St. Vincent De Paul, who cared for the poor and lived in the 13th century. There are more than 172,000 members of the organization in approximately 5,000 communities in the United States and more than 1.3 million members worldwide.