WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Archbishop Richard Smith finishes packing a hamper for a needy family.
Archbishop Richard Smith walked the Gospel talk Nov. 12 as he packed hampers and sorted household items at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's distribution centre.
With help from SSVP volunteer Ed Schrader, the archbishop filled an order for a needy city family. The order included everything from pots and pans to cutlery and dish towels.
The SSVP, a worldwide organization operating in Edmonton since 2000, provides emergency assistance to people in need in Edmonton and the surrounding areas.
The archbishop went to the distribution centre to bless the recently-renovated facility and decided to help out a little.
"The poor are close to all of our hearts and I wanted to be here today to show my personal support for the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society," Smith said after he packed the order.
"I have long been impressed by the work that they do and am thrilled to have them in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. To witness the work that they are doing is truly edifying."
The distribution centre, located in the former chapel of St. Joseph's High School, is the place where the SSVP stores donated items and goods and then distributes them to people in need across the city.
"We have beds and furniture and pots and pans and linens and towels - everything a person may need to set up an apartment," said SSVP vice president Mary Dunnigan. "We also have a small food bank for emergencies."
People in need can also visit the clothing room once every 60 days and "take a full bag of clothing for free."
Prior to the blessing, the archbishop helped dedicate the clothing room in memory of Terrence Mahon, a well-known volunteer and top Knights of Columbus recruiter at Good Shepherd Parish.
Mahon's father, Terry Mahon, who was present at the dedication, donated $60,000 to the SSVP.
Many clothing room customers were lining up for clothes during the dedication ceremony. Volunteer Darcy Knoll said about 100 people get clothing there each day from Monday to Friday.
Recently the distribution centre underwent $38,000 worth of renovations to make it brighter and better organized. "We just renovated it over the summer and it's never been blessed, so we've asked the archbishop to do that," Dunnigan said.
"In his great love for all of us Christ said that whatever we do for the least among us we do for him," the archbishop said during the blessing.
"Let's pray for the Lord's richest blessings on the members of the St. Vincent de Paul organization who are devoted to helping their brothers and sisters and today in particular upon this distribution centre."
SSVP gets about 1,200 calls a month - some from donors, the majority from families and individuals in need of help. In 2012, the SSVP served almost 10,000 people and did more than 62,000 volunteer hours.
"This is a large operation," Dunnigan said. "We are an organization of over 500 volunteers with no paid staff."
A family that requests help gets a visit from two SSVP members who assess its needs. The home visitors make a list of the family's needs and give it to the distribution centre. Volunteers pack the order. Sometimes not everything in the list is available.
"An order can include housewares, furniture, even clothing and specialty items," explained volunteer Lauren Cleland. "In the housewares there would be a coffee pot, dishes, cutlery and things like that, and also decorations for their houses like a picture."
Once packed, the order is delivered to the needy family or individual at no cost to them.
Dunnigan said the majority of the people who request help from SSVP "are immigrants or people new to the city, people who are just coming out of abusive relationships, people who have been released from prison or single moms that have nowhere to go."
The charity's greatest need right now is for queen size and twin size beds as well as bedding for the same sizes. "Right now we don't have a single bed to give out."
Dunnigan said several Catholic schools are involved with SSVP. In the past month at least three schools have run drives for the charity.
One school brought in things like socks, toques, mittens, scarves and even crayons and colouring books for needy kids. Another school brought in a combination of socks and brooms and dustpans.
SSVP has 18 parish-based conferences and serves the needy in Edmonton, Vegreville, Red Deer and St. Albert.
If in need of help or willing to make a donation, call 780-471-5577 or visit the SSVP's website, www.ssvpedmonton.ca.