By LINDA M. LINONIS
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Mahoning County addresses the hunger issue in the Valley by feeding people.
It is well-known for its dining hall at 208 W. Front St., where about 105,000 meals were served in 2013. Its food pantry at 317 Via Mount Carmel distributed in excess of 3,100 food boxes last year that helped some 12,000 people, with half being children.
Brian Antal, society president, said the society’s budget for its projects is about $235,000 for the fiscal year of Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014. The funding comes from donations from individuals and groups, a small private grant and a small Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. It takes about $150,000 to run the dining hall for a year and $60,000 for the food pantry.
Money also goes to a backpack giveaway in late August. The society began that project to help families who come to the dining hall and food pantry. “If they don’t have money for food, they don’t have money for school supplies,” Antal said.
Antal said he likes to provide statistics for the calendar year, which tell a story of just how great the need is.
Antal and Skip Barone, dining hall manager, recently discussed the work of the society.
For the past four years, Barone said, the society has partnered with the Youngstown Afterschool Alliance to provide the Afterschool Snack Program.
He said society volunteers pack about 195 snacks from Monday through Thursday for Youngstown students enrolled in the program. They attend five sites that include middle and elementary schools in the city.
“For some kids, that food is all they have to eat until they come to school and get a free breakfast,” Antal said.
Barone said the snack includes a small sandwich or slider, fruit or pudding, gelatin, cookies or a piece of cake, carrots and celery and cream cheese. He said the society follows guidelines on packing the snacks, using prepackaged cookies, for example.
He credited the Bottom Dollar food chain with partially funding the project this year with a $3,000 grant. The program, which runs from October to May, costs about $7,500. Other funding comes from donations to the society.
April Alexander, a project director for Youngstown Afterschool Alliance, said the Afterschool Snack Program addresses the hunger issue. She said the alliance also provides academic assistance, homework help and youth development programs to improve students’ reading and math skills.
“We know we’re helping the most needy ... kids and adults,” Barone said. “We’re a faith-based organization ... it’s our mission to help.”
That’s why Antal and Barone are seeking the Valley’s support of the society’s winter gala fundraiser Feb. 15 at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman, which helps the society fulfill its mission to help people in need.