To The Daily Sun,
"Never have I prayed so well as in the streets."
That phrase was uttered by, Rosalie Rendu, a deeply caring woman who worked with Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul, in 19th century France. The statement epitomizes the notion that religion doesn't stop at the church door. I think it marks the work of St. Vincent de Paul in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Following in the tradition of Ozanam and Rendu of "finding God with the poor," our Laconia organization has started and maintained a number of needed programs.
Jo Carignan, with the able assistance of her team of volunteers, manages our Food Pantry. The program served more than 4,000 households, including over 11,000 individuals in 2014 in the Lakes Region. The Food Pantry also provided more than 700 turkey baskets for this year's Thanksgiving holiday. Food donations include meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, cereal, paper products, diapers, soap, detergents, and toothpaste.
As the Thrift Store manager, I have the support of four great supervisors and close to 80 volunteers. These volunteers combine a variety of talents and, of course, a lot of hard work that goes into sorting, pricing, and displaying furniture, household items, and clothing. All items from the store are donated by people who live or visit the Lakes Region. While we sell most of these items, we do give away approximately $20,000 in furniture and clothes each year. The proceeds from the store sales go to support our other programs.
The largest of our programs in terms of dollars and cents is our Financial Assistance program. Under the coordination of Bill Johnson, teams of twenty SVdP volunteers reach out to help families in the Lakes Region with over $130,000 in dental, medical, daycare, rent, utilities, fuel for heat, car repairs and fuel assistance. They conduct individual interviews to help clients with budgeting and offering emotional support, encouragement, and guidance with decision choices.
Long-time SVdP volunteer, Sue Page, monitors our organization's Children Foundation. This program works with school nurses, guidance counselors and daycare centers to provide education-related assistance to children. This includes school supplies in September and camperships in the summer. At Christmas this year, the foundation will provide children's underwear and outerwear to more than 700 children. The Children's Foundation is a benefactor of the WLNH's Children Auction.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the time and effort by more than 120 volunteers, the donations of clothing, furniture, food, Christmas gifts, and the financial support you, our contributors, provide all through the year. I hope you'll continue that support this year. As you know, St. Vincent de Paul in Laconia, has never paid any wages or salaries, relying on our all-volunteer staff and management. If you'd like to join this outstanding team, please give me a call (524-5470). Echoing the words of Rendu, "if you have nothing to give, give yourself."
On behalf of all the people at St. Vincent de Paul, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Erika Johnson, President
Society of St. Vincent de Paul