Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Sunday tour of St. Vincent de Paul's place

My head still spins in places where there's a lot of visual stimulation, so it's been six months since my last Thursday volunteering stint in the Clothing Room. But last week, I decided to bite the bullet and take my dizzy self back to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Distribution Centre for the day. My mom has kept me up to date on my favourite homeless friends and some friend volunteers, but enough was enough, already. I wanted to see them all for myself, so Thursday I decided to give it a go. 

It was good to be back... and returning after being away for six months only underlined what an amazing place it is. Run entirely by volunteers, it helps a lot of our less fortunate brothers and sisters by supplying them with the basics -- clothing, bedding, housewares, and even food. I took my camera along with me so I could give you a tour of the place.

If you've ever noticed the little chapel on the corner near St. Joseph's High School 
on 109th Street and wondered if it's in use, I can assure you that it is.

This sign goes out, Monday to Friday, welcoming people 
to the Clothing Room, where they can get 
donated clothing for free.

In the chapel's foyer is the Clothing Room.

Seasonal jackets and boots to the right, fairly well stocked at the moment.

There are just two aisles like this one, so you can imagine 
how crowded it can get when lots of people show up at the same time
(our record is 42 clients plus some spouses and a child or five in two hours).
This is the ladies and children's section. 
I didn't get a good picture of the "men's department."

The baby items are right beside the registration desk. 
We ask our clients to register so we can be sure that they don't 
come more than once a month... but I like the registration process 
simply because it allows me to call people by name. 
Homeless visitors get special consideration and 
can come more frequently if they need to,
as most of them don't abuse the privilege.

To the left of the desk we have purses, shoes, books and school supplies. 
That's a box of shirts I unpacked, which came from 
behind the bookshelves, where you'll find...

our sorting room. The black garbage bags piled to the ceiling are this 
week's donations from a couple of clothing drives.
We work our way through them, hanging 
the items our clients need, and sharing the ones they don't 
with the Marian Centre and other agencies that can make use of them.

The clothing room is under the choir loft in the chapel. 
The rest of the Distribution Centre is in the nave.
Here's what you see from the choir loft!

The choir loft itself is crammed with all sorts of different things.

I see we've been busy collecting fans for apartment dwelling
clients in the hot summer months. And below is our toy department.

The rest of the Distribution Centre stores household needs like...

beds and bedding,


furniture (not much available at the moment),

and small appliances that are carefully tested by volunteers. 
Everything that comes into the place is checked over and deemed 
worthy before being packed up and delivered to clients who have been
visited by a pair of volunteers in order to determine what is needed.
Below are some orders waiting to go out.

And here's the food bank for those times when even hampers from the
official City Food Bank don't stretch quite far enough...

SSVP is an amazing organization. Returning to the Distribution Centre made me so happy. It's a place of which I'm very proud... can you tell? We volunteers make lots of jokes about getting paid double for what we do some days, but honestly, I think we get more than our money's worth in the clients we meet and the joy we receive from them. And the planet benefits too, because we're saving good stuff from the landfill, and giving it to people who need it. Everyone wins. So if you're looking for a great cause to give some of your time, talent and treasure, consider volunteering and donating to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. And keep in mind that it's not just a Catholic thing... everyone who cares about our less fortunate brothers and sisters is welcome anytime. If there's no SSVP near you, there are probably other agencies/groups that would be glad of your assistance!

The folks who volunteer at SSVP take the words of Isaiah seriously:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom will be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many nations,
you shall be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets to live in.

Till the day was done, I was pretty dizzy, but I was very glad to be back. SSVP is in my soul permanently now, and a wee exchange I had with a homeless fellow reminded me why I like being there so much, even in my dizziness. I asked Walter how he was doing when he came in, and he said, "I woke up with a heartbeat, so I'm pretty good."

Me too! We have so much for which to be grateful!

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