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St. Vincent de Paul Society: Ministry of service
Longtime St. Vincent de Paul Society Mary McCleary takes care of the paper work while volunteer Anthony’s Angels help distribute food baskets to the needy last Thanksgiving. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
When you think of St. Vincent de Paul Society, think of the following statistics: 7,664 families; 15,513 adults; and 14,529 children.

Those are the numbers of people that have received assistance such as food and clothing from the all-volunteer religious service organization in the last 12 months alone.

Here’s another part of those statistics: all the work involved in this ministry were done by a crew of just 40 to 45 people, almost all of whom are retirees working on weekdays. That does not include the volunteer hours put into the one and only annual fund-raiser benefiting the organization, the omelet Christmas breakfast eggstravaganza held every first Sunday of December. The last one was held just last Dec. 6 in the St. Anthony’s gym.

At this annual fund-raiser, St. Vincent de Paul gets some support from another Catholic group, the Young Ladies Institute, which holds an annual bake sale at the omelet breakfast and donates all of the proceeds to St. Vincent de Paul.

The bulk of the financial support that the organization needs to run the program year-round comes from St. Anthony’s parishioners. That support comes from offerings collected during all the masses held on every fifth Sunday of the year. During those Sundays, a second collection is conducted specifically targeted for St. Vincent de Paul’s operating budget.

The rest of the in-kind help such as food and clothing are donated by various groups in the community. Students of St. Anthony’s School, for instance, conduct their own food, toy and coat drive every year as their student project. Raley’s grocery store also has designated St. Vincent de Paul as the recipient of its year-round donation campaign. That’s the donation jar that you see at the store’s check-out stands. The money comes in handy particularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas when food boxes filled with turkey or ham plus the complete dinner trimmings are distributed to individuals and families that are feeling the economic pinch.

Food and clothing distribution though is a year-round ministry for St. Vincent de Paul volunteers. They man, on a rotating basis, the organization’s office and storage building located behind the church rectory Monday to Friday from 1 to 4 p .m. The small structure, which doubles as office and storage for food and clothing, was built in its entirety by volunteers using donated materials and expertise.

St. Vincent de Paul through the years
Prior to the construction of this building, St. Vincent de Paul used whatever space was available to store donated food and clothing – in the church’s choir loft, some parts of the rectory when the office was still located there, and a room in the church that is now used for confessions. This went on for a number of years, from sometime in the 1970s when the St. Vincent de Paul Society was started at St. Anthony’s, until the 1980s when the small building was constructed.

Last year, an effort was started by the volunteers to distribute food on a Saturday. They set up a table outside the building where they set up sandwiches and drinks to anyone who needed food. But that program did not last long.

“We just didn’t get anybody,” with two or three people coming by a few times to take advantage of the food, said volunteer Mary McCleary.

From its inception, the volunteer crew has been made up largely of retirees.

“We can’t get young members because they are at work during the day” when the help is needed, Mc Cleary said.

“Our volunteer membership is kind of down right now because there are people that are out sick,” she said.

They always welcome new volunteers, she said. Those who cannot commit to a few hours of regular work can sign up to be on call.

“We have several members who are on call,” McCleary said.

They are the ones that could be called upon to help when they need someone to pick up bread and other goodies, for example, at the grocery store or the Second Harvest Food Bank, she said.

As a rule, they require clients to present two forms of identification such as a valid driver’s license and any proof of residence in order to receive service. They provide services to residents in the Manteca, French Camp and Lathrop areas, but there are usually quite a few coming from Stockton. These are referred to the St. Mary’s Church program in downtown Stockton where the current pastor is Father Dean McFalls, former pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lathrop. Those coming from Ripon are referred to St. Patrick’s Church which already has its own St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Currently serving as president of the Manteca St. Vincent de Paul Society is Al De Groot. However, at the end of this month, he will be relinquishing that title to incoming president Pete Padron.

For more information on how to become a volunteer, call (209) 823-8099. If you want to make a donation, send checks to St. Vincent de Paul Society, 525 East North Street, Manteca, CA 95336-4712.