Anearly life-sized cardboard cutout of Pope Francis is among the smiling faces that greet each St. Vincent de Paul volunteer in the lobby of its main campus.
By the Numbers
Volunteers in database.
Volunteers needed per day across St. Vincent de Paul operations (ministries, dining rooms, thrift stores).
Sack lunches prepared at each “Hearts and Hands Day,” a monthly all ages volunteer session featuring lunch kit assembly and purposeful crafts.
Volunteer slots maximum for “Hearts and Hands Day.” Otherwise, double that would show up because of the interest/demand.
Minimum number of times “Hearts and Hands Day” is held each year, They’re held 9 a.m.-noon first Saturdays with extra dates available Nov. 17, Nov. 22 (Thanksgiving), Dec. 1 and Dec. 24.
If Christ’s vicar on earth appeared in the flesh at the nation’s largest SVdP, he’d probably fill out a sticker name tag like the rest of us and head out to his scheduled assignment. One SVdP staff member envisions that being in the resource center greeting guests or upstairs hearing the story of Ozanam Manor residents and how they became homeless at 55 or older.
He’d likely step in to serve, too, “and I would hope offer a blessing which would restore hope and faith because, in the end, people want others to see us and honor us,” said Shannon Clancy, SVdP’s associate executive director and chief philanthropy officer.
Even though Pope Francis isn’t in Phoenix in the flesh, his spirit is. St. Vincent de Paul is primarily a volunteer-run charity across five dining rooms, 17 thrift stores and a main campus that increased its resource center services and showers by 96 percent just since May.
Although serving others is free, maintaining a facility and supplies to do so, including never-ending laundry, isn’t. Initiatives like the “Francis Mercy Fund” will ensure the spirit of service to those on the margins endures. The fund is part of the ongoing diocesan “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign and will support SVdP’s rapidly growing outreach.
Resource Center services now include on-site professional connections to job services, economic services, legal advice and crisis navigation plus referrals for mental health assistance. Cherylyn Strong, manager of Special Ministries, indicated that the one-stop shopping for guests who are already under-resourced, especially in transportation matters, increases the likelihood of guests more quickly returning to independence.
The facility has also brought on movie nights and a hot protein breakfast for guests. “They really appreciate just being treated normal,” Strong said.
Clancy called supporting the charitable outreach via the campaign living out the Gospel message. “It’s a symbol of the kindness, love, generosity, compassion and faith by reaching out to others in their moment of need.”
Two brand new efforts have Ozanam Manor staff equipping graduating residents with essentials for their own place: an SVdP food box and what’s been coined a “home in a box” stuffed with toiletries and kitchen essentials.
“They’re moving from here with nothing as far as household goods go,” said Julia Matthies, director of Ozanam Manor. “I bought everything I could that would fit into an 18-gallon tote.”
St. Vincent de Paul
Main campus: 420 W. Watkins Rd., Phoenix
Shopping thriftily, contents still totaled $75. That’s times 60 residents who can stay up to 24 months. They haven’t been very dormant since moving on site in May. Many turn into official volunteers in other ministries.
One Ozanam Manor resident supports SVdP’s IT. Another handles the flagpole. Others work in the Urban farm, serve as a crossing guard for the Dream Center — the learning and play space connected with the family dining room — or support special ministries.
“It’s important in a psychosocial way. A lot of our people have a work history, but they feel defeated if they can’t find a job. Volunteering gives meaning to their lives,” Matthies explained.
It’s a dimension not afforded to Ozanam residents at their previous off-site location. Matthies said the volunteer connection gives them a commitment and especially a community they can return to even after they’re back on their feet.