Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Will Roberson sorts the various meats before storing them in the warehouse freezer at St. Vincent de Paul, Chamblee, Nov. 16.


Vincentians Reach Out In Season Of Need

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 22, 2012

Close to 10 tons of food is distributed monthly by St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and during the upcoming holiday season people and families in need will turn to the organization to put food on the table and a gift under the Christmas tree.

John Berry, the CEO of the nonprofit, said many St. Vincent de Paul parish groups are organizing holiday collections to add to food baskets distributed in those communities.

Requests for help remain high, he said, but at the same time people are also thinking more about charities and remembering those who are poor.

“We also see people stepping up,” he said. “It helps get the shelves stocked up.”

A sandwich and snack is handed to one of the nearly 200 patrons lined up around the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Men and women in need of food stop by the Atlanta church Monday through Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Coordinator Leo Dugger said they have gone from serving 150 people in 2008 to 200 or more today. Photo By Michael Alexander

The average cost of feeding 10 people the 12 items typically served during the Thanksgiving holiday meal is approaching $50, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

And at the St. Francis Table, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in downtown Atlanta, on Saturday, Nov. 24, a hearty traditional Thanksgiving meal will be served.

Deacon Bill Payne said the year-round Saturday ministry plans to serve more than 500 people on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with the goal to have enough food to serve “as much as people can eat.”

At the same time, the parish recently collected 67 blankets to distribute to homeless people. More blankets are welcome. Donated blankets must be new and must be full size.

Another parish outreach is a ministry of making and distributing sandwiches every weekday, from

8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. People can contribute the fixings to make the sandwiches or small groups can call ahead to schedule some time to help distribute the food, said Deacon Payne.

Food service on a larger scale takes place with the partnership between St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and retail stores. St. Vincent de Paul has teamed with Kroger grocery stores and Sam’s Club to collect meat and other perishable food from the stores and then distribute it to the 38 St. Vincent de Paul-sponsored food pantries around the archdiocese. Berry said talks are underway to see if the organization can expand the collection area and serve additional food pantries.

This time of year, people are generous and remember the less fortunate. However, after the holiday season, it is a different story. Berry said the agency works to balance the abundance from the holidays with the crunch in the summer months when the food shelves are close to bare.

John Neal packs the sandwiches in a pan so they will be ready the next time they hand them out. On this particular day 195 sandwiches were made. Photo By Michael Alexander

“In the winter, we collect the donations. We save up for the summer,” he said.

Deacon Payne said the situation is the same at the Immaculate Conception Shrine food pantry. Food is coming in now, but after the holiday season, donations trickle off, he said.

“We have space to have enough of it stored,” he said.

The holiday season is also a key time to appeal to people for financial donations. St. Vincent de Paul holds its second biggest fundraising effort before Christmas. Some 5,000 appeal letters are sent out. The 2011 collection raised about $160,000, the highest amount in the past four years, said Berry.

For Christmas, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia runs a program to help people with gifts. Berry said folks are looking to make the season nice for their children. And they rarely see people who come for food who blame their financial situation on spending money on toys, he said. Instead, they see parents who would like the opportunity to make the season memorable, he said.