STORY AND PHOTOS
There’s a place in downtown Youngstown that serves lunch five days a week with a lot of help from its friends.
On a recent day, volunteers from St. Patrick Church in Youngstown and St. Michael Church in Canfield were out in force at the St. Vincent de Paul Society Dining Hall serving a hot lunch of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society Dining Hall, 208 W. Front St., sometimes called the soup kitchen, served 91,000 meals to people in need during 2010.
In order to do this, Skip Barone, dining-hall manager, has a network of volunteers and a finely tuned schedule.
“We have volunteers from 22 area churches along with groups from businesses and organizations that show up every week to help prepare and serve lunch,” Barone said.
The clientele at the dining hall varies from day to day and includes a spectrum of society.
“We have working poor, elderly and even [Youngs-town State University] students along with the truly homeless who frequent the dining hall,” Barone said while distributing takeout lunches.
Barone, who knows most of the clients by name, started volunteering at St. Vincent 12 years ago and became manager eight years ago.
“I believe we’re doing something important here,” Barone said, adding that it’s important to give back to the community.
Sitting in a sunny spot near the front window and dressed in a plaid coat and wool cap, Ray Pruitt was one of about 50 people eating lunch at the hall.
“I’m a regular. I’m here about three days a week,” Pruitt said, adding that the hall serves up wholesome food for those in need and is a good thing for the community. The downtown facility serves lunch Monday through Friday and break-fast Saturday.
According to the website, “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers tangible assistance to those in need on a person-to-person basis.”
St. Vincent de Paul was a Catholic priest who died in 1660 and was known for his work with the poor.
Giving is often its own reward for Barone.
“I care about people, and I get a satisfaction when I know I’m helping others,” Barone said.
Running the hall is not without challenges, and Barone says that when challenges arise, he is always amazed at how an individual or organization steps up.