On a quiet shaded street, removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Cincinnati, is a beautiful old building that houses the main office of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati (SVDP), a valuable partner to the Freestore Foodbank. Set back from the street, with a small but charming courtyard in front, the building sports interesting hallways, staircases and rooms full of character. “This used to be the home of a local mattress factory,” explains Claire Luby, Development Manager as we make our way to the back of the building to the loading dock. SVDP was the recent recipient of a capacity development grant from the Freestore Foodbank which helped them purchase an 18-foot box truck.
Prior to receiving the grant, the agency had struggled for years with a decrepit, old truck that broke down almost every week. Earlier this year, right before July 4th weekend, the agency was offered a massive donation of fresh corn from a local farm. The staff made arrangements for the truck to pick up the fresh delicious corn as soon as possible. They knew it would be a welcome treat to their neighbors over the holiday weekend. On its way back from the farm, however, to everyone’s great consternation the truck broke down! A tow truck was deployed to pull the broken down truck to SVDP’s main office so they could unload the corn before taking it to the repair shop.
The opportunity to apply for the grant came as a blessing. “The truck has been a life-saver,” says Luby. “We use it every day to pick up palettes of produce, water and meat from different parts of the city. There were several instances in the past when we had to turn down donations because we did not have a vehicle.” The new truck makes regular trips to local grocers such as Sam’s Club and Walmart to pick up food donations. The donated items are brought back to the main office, sorted and distributed. “The best part is that the truck comes with a liftgate which makes loading and unloading so much easier,” says Kevin, a volunteer driver for SVDP. The ability to load barrels and pallets easily has been life-altering. The old truck did not have a liftgate. During the Reds Strike out Hunger Food Drive fans donated hundreds of cans of food. It was a nightmare trying to get the barrels of donated cans onto the old truck. The same was true of a food drive at a recent University basketball game. The new truck solved this problem once and for all.
St. Vincent de Paul was started in 1833 in Paris. Today it is an international organization with branches all over the world consisting of a relatively small staff and a multitude of volunteers. There are nearly 1,000 SVDP volunteers working out of 56 Conferences (groups of volunteers typically based in a parish) in the Cincinnati area. One of the unique features of the organization is its willingness to go to clients and provide assistance at home. “We try to meet the families we serve where they are,” says Luby. “This is the basis of our service model.” Today the agency offers food, clothing, bus tokens, rent and utility assistance as well as free pharmaceutical care through its Charitable Pharmacy. They also work with partners to offer other specialized services such as health screenings as well as dental and vision screenings.
“We appreciate the help of the Freestore Foodbank and we are very grateful for this grant,”comments Luby. SVDP is an important partner to the Freestore Foodbank. It is a pleasure to work with them and help them do good in the communities that we serve.