The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Saints Peter and Paul Conference, is part of an international Catholic organization founded in Paris, France, by Frederic Ozanam in 1833. Its mission was – and continues to be – serving the poor.
“It’s simple really,” says Alex Handy, president of the organization. “We serve those in need.”
The Easton facility is perhaps best known for its food pantry. Shelf stable items such as cereal, peanut butter, tuna, pasta, canned vegetables, and fruit are purchased from the Maryland Food Bank. Perishable items including milk, bread, meat, produce, and frozen vegetables that are close to their “sell by” dates are collected daily from local grocery stores.
Though many people in the community know about the food pantry, “it’s really so much more than that,” Handy explains.
The organization offers financial assistance to needy families, including funding for those facing eviction and emergency shelter for the homeless. A team of volunteers responds to calls daily, and a home visitation team is ready to spring into action 365 days a year. The Friendly Neighbor Program pairs seniors and homebound individuals with volunteers who check in regularly.
At the Thrift Store on Canvasback Drive, donations of household items such as clothing, housewares, and furniture are recycled and turned into a profit center for the organization. Families needing clothing, furniture, or other items are provided vouchers to receive these items free. Sales to the public help fund food purchases and generate money for financial assistance programs.
During 2020, the value of food provided to those in need was $990,829, up from 2019 by more than 35%. The organization also provided $132,776 in financial assistance to more than 1,600 people in Talbot County. To top it off, the organization is run entirely by volunteers. It takes more than 300 generous souls to keep all of the programs running smoothly.
“It’s a big number, and it takes a lot of people,” says Handy, himself a volunteer. “But the reason we are able to do all of this is that we are here in Talbot County. We have many more volunteers than most of the other conferences in the Wilmington Council. People here ‘get it.’ It’s a volunteer community.”
Handy says he believes the volunteer corps is so dedicated because they can easily see the impact they are making on the lives of others.
“They can see the people who need it because they come to the food pantry, they come in for financial assistance,” he says. “So it’s not like sending a check to some foreign agency. It’s actually seeing the situations that people are dealing with. That’s a pretty compelling reason to be involved here.”