Help St. Vincent de Paul open dining hall ASAP
Mahoning County can count itself blessed for its strong, active and compassionate St. Vincent de Paul Society. The organization’s longstanding and on- going good works would make the venerable namesake of the organization, a 17th century Roman Catholic priest from France, truly proud.
Just as St. Vincent de Paul, known as the “Great Apostle of Charity,” lived and preached, his robust contemporary army of volunteer disciples in the Mahoning Valley dedicate themselves to helping the less fortunate of our community in myriad projects.
One of the most visible modes has been its operation of a dining hall in downtown Youngstown that for years has served as a headquarters for the poor, homeless and otherwise down-on-their-luck individuals to gather for food and fellowship daily.
Early this month, however, the dining hall was forced to close indefinitely after an inspection by the Mahoning County Building Inspection Department found the facility unsafe for workers and patrons. Among the potential dangers found were a collapsed ceiling above a second-floor office and rotting floor under compartment sinks.
The closing of the dining hall inside the 72-year-old structure cut off a vital life line for hundreds in our community. That’s why the society and its supporters cannot allow the significant services it provides to lie dormant much longer.
RESTORATION OF SERVICE
We were encouraged Thursday to learn that plans are in the works for restoring the SVDP dining-hall services in the near future. “I do know our [dining hall] service will be continuing,” Jessica Robinson, executive administrator of the Mahoning District of SVDP, told The Vindicator.
She added that a formal announcement is expected sometime next week on updates on the repairs to the facility and details on when and where the meal service will resume.
We would urge society board members and leaders to restart the service as quickly as possible and to locate it (if an alternate location becomes necessary) as close to its downtown headquarters as possible. In addition to lacking adequate food, many St. Vincent patrons also lack viable transportation.
Toward those goals, community assistance to Mahoning SVDP can play a large role in expediting re-establishment of the service. Monetary contributions of any size can be made at the organization’s website, mahoningsvdp.org.
The nonprofit group relies heavily on community generosity to finance its good works. And although the dining hall might well be the most visible symbol of its charity, St. Vincent de Paul is active on numerous other fronts in its mission to “end poverty through systemic change.”
Despite the hall’s temporary closing, “We are very much alive and well,” Robinson said. The offices of the society at 208 W. Front St. remain open and its other services continue to buzz along.
Amid the focus on the current dining-hall dilemma, many may lose sight of those equally noble good works of the society. Consider, for example, these impressive imprints it makes on our community:
The SVDP Society Food Pantry at Mount Carmel Church, Youngstown, provides more than 250 families per week with needed food supplies and more than 100 people daily with bread and other basic food staples.
The society is in the middle of its annual campaign to collect back-to-school supplies for low-income children in grades K-12. Distribution to a projected 500 students will take place Aug. 12 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the society headquarters. Donations of back packs, notebooks, writing utensils, crayons and other supplies are being accepted. A special collection will take place Saturday at the Youngstown Flea downtown.
Individual SVDP groups operate out of every Roman Catholic parish in the county to ensure outreach to those in need stretches as far and wide as possible in the county.
For the time being, however, the dining hall’s closure remains a critically missing piece in the society’s overall patchwork of community benevolence. The sooner the service can be restored, the sooner SVDP and the legions who depend on it for sustenance can be made whole again.