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St. Vincent de Paul is the patron saint of the ministry, and he dedicated his life to helping and serving the poor

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - From left: Doug Benton, volunteer; Teresa Elwood, SVDP pantry manager; Charlie Kurtz, SVDP president. The group stands in front of the self-serve pantry at their location on Elm Street.

On March 18, a celebration will take place at St. Joseph Parish Hall to recognize and show appreciation for the support and generosity of those in the community who make the ministry of St. Vincent de Paul Society of Crook County possible. 

In addressing the essential support of all donors of this minitrsy, Charlie Kurtz, President of the non-profit noted, "You are integral to feeding and caring for the poor of Crook County. Without your support, we can do nothing."

Kurtz added that there will be special speakers, and they will celebrate the past year and hear from some of those whom they have helped. Kurtz said anyone who has helped the ministry — regardless of dollar amount, volunteer or other forms of assistance — are welcome. 

"Please come and hear our stories while feasting on good coffee, muffins, doughnuts, yogurt, cheese, fruit and vegetables," Kurtz said.

The event begins at 7:30 a.m. 

The ministry and mission of St. Vincent de Paul of Crook County is to help people meet their basic needs. Its mission statement is "Neighbors helping neighbors." St. Vincent de Paul is the patron saint of the ministry, and he dedicated his life to helping and serving the poor. 

In a county of more than 23,000 people, 13% of the population of Crook County have income under the federal poverty level. The demand for services has continued to increase since the first food pantry was started in 1977 in Prineville. Started by John Solitz, the first pantry was located on East First Street. In 1997, it was relocated to Court Street, and a recycling warehouse and thrift store were added. 

In 2018, the thrift store and recycling were no longer creating cash flow, and all operations were suspended. In March 2019, St. Vincent de Paul relocated once more to a building that once housed a portion of the old Pioneer Memorial Hospital and opened a self-serve food pantry. 

"Since reopening the food bank in 2019, the monthly lease and operating costs were reduced to less than 25% of 2018 and prior levels," Kurtz said. "All paid staff were replaced by volunteers. The board of directors was reformed to include individuals with extensive business and nonprofit experience.  Their current balance sheet is strong with a modest cash reserve." 

The pantry provides patrons with a wide variety of healthy foods. There are fresh selections such as vegetables and fruit, eggs, and milk. There is a variety of meats — including fresh, frozen and canned. There are also frozen vegetables and other staples. In canned and dry goods, there are grains, plant-based protein and soups. 

St. Vincent de Paul also assists people who are in crisis due to imminent eviction or suspension of utility service. It helps with transportation and fuel when the client has no other means of support.  

These services are made possible by a variety of funding sources. Grants come from individuals and foundations. Individuals and businesses also donate, and St. Vincent de Paul collaborates with churches, businesses and agencies, including Trader Joe's, local grocery stores and NeighborImpact. The USDA subsidizes food purchases at NeighborImpact. Very importantly, the nonprofit depends on volunteers to help with everything from food box preparation and truck driving to grant writing and intake and reception. 

In 1990, St. Vincent de Paul served approximately 50 to 75 people per week. By contrast, in 2019, more than 250 people were served per week. Each month, up to 1,000 people visit the food bank to receive food.   

"St. Vincent de Paul plans to intensify local fundraising efforts in 2020 with events including food and fund drives," Kurtz concluded. "We work with local churches, businesses and social agencies to appeal for support. Our 31 volunteers each work an average of four hours a week to serve the needs of the poor.  Our sponsors and donors provide the funds needed for food and other expenses."

Sidebar

Friends of St. Vincent de Paul Society Celebration will be March 18, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. 

St. Joseph's Catholic Parish Hall 

150 East first St., Prineville


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