“When you just aren’t sure what’s around the next corner” reads the homepage of the Catholic charity, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Amador chapter’s website - and that saying could not be more relevant or poignant than at the difficult times all have faced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Long before 2020, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVdP) was established back in 1833 by the young French scholar Frederic Ozanam- the man, barely out of his teens, strove to embody and spread the mission of following the Christian beliefs to “go to the poor” as Jesus was said to do. Originally known as the Conference of Charity, the small group of six changed their name and grew exponentially through various humanitarian efforts and charity works until its message and members circumnavigated the world.
As the vice president of the local chapter Terri Works explains, volunteering with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a way to honor her faith by assisting others - a practical way to express her faith. That faith-based channel of doing good, of helping serve others in need inspired by gospel values, is just what drew her to join the organization a few years ago. “It is wonderful to be able to help people out with the SVdP, and see the difference; it’s easy to look at the world’s problems and get overwhelmed, like how to help with the homelessness crisis, but we can make an impact in the community by doing something like putting a new windshield in a homeless person’s car.”
While being a member of the Amador chapter, known as a “Vincentian,” Terri has seen and assisted with fellow Vincentians on a number of projects ranging from a recent replacement of a homeless man’s windshield to providing financial support for car repairs, and providing furniture, essential home goods and work clothes to those moving out of shelters. “We work closely with the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency, or ATCAA and the Church of the Nazarene, in addition to the homeless shelter,” she said. “Our mission is to help serve those in need - we have helped people with utilities, rent, medical drugs, car repairs, groceries, work clothes and boots, basically anything people need help with. It can range from new tires and brakes for vehicles to appliance and home repairs like fixing a hole in an older lady’s ceiling that she couldn’t get insured. To quote our patron, St. Vincent de Paul: ‘Charity is infinitely inventive.’ We rotate about every four to five weeks and answer calls for help in the Jackson-Pioneer, Ione-Camanche, and Plymouth-Fiddletown areas, working with the people to find out what the best way to help them is.”
A very important value to the Vincentians is their pride in privacy; assistance through the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is offered in a confidential, private manner that keeps those in need anonymous. “We are very protective, and keep the confidentiality and dignity of the people we help protected,” Works continued. “We don’t disclose anyone that we help. And the only requirement you have to meet is to live in Amador County.”
For those who are in need of assistance, Terri explained that after calling their phone number, a member of the local chapter will return your call. “If you need help, you can contact us by calling 209-223-5865 and leaving a message,” she said.
“There are clear directions for what you need to leave in the message, and somebody will call you back within 24 hours. We do not consider ourselves an emergency service, so please keep that in mind. We will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.”
The local chapter of the SVdP is able to assist over a thousand people every year in our community through a bit of fundraising and generous donations, but primarily is supported by collections after mass at St. Katherine Drexel Parish. “From 2014 through 2020, we helped over 5,400 people, serving 1,133 in 2020 alone,” Works revealed. “So far, in the eight months since the start of our fiscal year in October, we have helped 1,260 people and spent over $50,000 doing it. The money that allows us to assist those in need comes from parishioners and occasional outside donations. We do some fundraising as well - with the annual Walk for the Poor and a raffle for a trip to Hawaii. The 2021 Walk for the Poor will be held on September 25th at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, and there are two routes which you can walk, the shorter way and the longer trip. Our goal is to raise $10,000 this year at the annual Walk for the Poor.”
Contributions of cash or checks may be made in person on “Beggar’s Sundays” - after the last Sunday service of every other month, or in envelopes or checks expressly marked for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. To make a donation by mail to support the ongoing assistance provided to those in need across Amador County by the local chapter of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, make your envelope out to: SVdP (Saint Vincent de Paul), PO Box 76, Volcano, CA 95689. Donations may also be made online at the SVdP webpage. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all donations are fully tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.
“This charitable ministry can only carry on with the help of our community, our parishioners and those who want to help, so we make sure that nobody in need is forgotten. This has been our goal since the Society was first founded way back in 1833, and the organization has since spread around the world through the sharing of our values and a common sense of giving back. These values of never letting the needy be forgotten is what allows us to offer that desperately needed assistance to the families in Amador.”
To learn more about the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul or to make an electronic donation, follow their Facebook page @svdp.amadorcountyca and visit stkatharinedrexel.com and click on the Get Involved tab, then scroll to Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.