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Youngstown dining hall for poor loses donors amid furor over veep-hopeful Ryan

Published: Sat, October 20, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The president of Mahoning County’s St. Vincent de Paul Society says the agency has taken a financial hit after his criticism of Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s visit to the soup kitchen made national news.

“The amount of people who called and said they were donors who would stop contributing is substantial,” said Brian J. Antal, who runs the society.

When asked for specifics, Antal said “donations are private,” but of the people who’ve called, “dozens have identified themselves” and are donors.

Ryan visited the soup kitchen last Saturday.

The woman who coordinates the dining hall for the poor on Saturday gave Ryan’s campaign permission to visit the facility.

Ryan ran late and missed the breakfast crowd. His campaign asked that a few pots and pans be kept dirty so Ryan and his family could be photographed cleaning them, said Juanita Sherba, St. Vincent’s Saturday coordinator for the dining hall.

Antal said it’s inappropriate for a politician to use the soup kitchen for a “publicity stunt.”

In response, Mark Munroe, the county’s Republican Party chairman, said it’s “hypocritical” of Antal “to maintain a nonpolitical stance because what he’s doing [by complaining] is very political.”

In the last few days, Antal said the critical calls have been overtaken by those who support the organization with some offering to contribute money.

But, again, Antal said donations are private and declined to say how much has been received.

A woman from Lake Elsinore, Calif., contacted The Vindicator by email Friday saying the fallout is a “tragedy for the hungry and poor,” and wanted to contribute $100 to the society.

The faith-based society received $12,000 in federal money this year and raised about $175,000 to $200,000 in private donations for the dining hall, Antal said.

The nearby food pantry received $3,200 in federal aid this year and $75,000 in private donations, he said.

Without private contributions, the organization cannot survive, Antal said.

St. Vincent, on West Front Street in downtown Youngstown, serves 98,000 meals to the poor annually with 200 to 250 people served lunch every weekday and about 150 served breakfast on Saturdays, Antal said. The hall is closed Sundays.

The society is a stand-alone organization not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown or Catholic Charities though it has coordinated events with both, Antal said.

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