While many will gather for Thanksgiving this year around tables filled with food and family, the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul has set out to make sure that the poor and homeless will also experience a holiday filled with community.
“Society members work with people in poverty and the homeless 365 days a year. Our parish-based Conferences operate food pantries, dining facilities, and shelters year-round to help people in need with food and shelter,” said Dave Barringer, the National CEO of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“In addition to our year-round efforts, many St. Vincent de Paul Conferences and Councils do extra work around Thanksgiving,” Barringer told CNA in a 2017 interview.
The Society’s many councils and conferences across the country annually host or partake in local efforts to serve the poor and homeless for Thanksgiving, Barringer said.
For example, the Society’s Baton Rouge Council in Louisiana annually hosts a Thanksgiving meal for the community’s poor and homeless. They usually feed more than 600 people at the St. Vincent de Paul location, and last year, they also teamed up with the city’s Holiday Helpers to feed an additional 1,000 people.
“That is such a fantastic tradition for our community,” said Michael Acaldo, who works for the Baton Rouge Council, according to local news. “Over 1,000 people are served there. We serve over 600. When you put the two together, it’s a magnificent example of our community in action.”
In Arizona, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Phoenix Council also helps with the community’s annual turkey drive, in what locals calls “Turkey Tuesday.”
Every Tuesday before Thanksgiving, locals bring turkeys to designated grocery stores to donate them to those in need. In 2016, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul received more than 26,000 donated turkeys.
Last year, a St. Vincent de Paul Conference in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, Pennsylvania delivered 100 Thanksgiving dinners to families in need around the area, including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy.
“People need an extra hand all year round – it is important to be there. But it’s common knowledge that people suffer around the holidays. Picture being alone this time of year. If we can help, we want to,” said John Nard, the president of the local Conference, according to local news.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic organization whose mission is to “end poverty through systemic change.” They offer tangible assistance to those in need through the councils and conferences found across the country, and are dependent on the support of the individuals involved with each conference.
Although feeding the hungry during the holidays is necessary, one of the main goals of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is to address the needs of the poor every day of the year.
“The holidays are a time when interest in caring for people in poverty is especially high. It is also a good time to invite people to carry on in that spirit of generosity and put their faith in action by helping people in need throughout the year,” Barringer said.
“People are hungry every day of the year.”
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