Monster 3 days in Vinnies’ year-round operations

by | Mar 23, 2014 | Poverty: Analysis and Responses, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

svdp-logo-ausThe Canberra Times writes of a “Monster three day sale” by the Australian St. Vincent dePaul Society.

Local demand for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s services will only increase as Canberra grows given the ACT has Australia’s second-highest rate of homelessness and the same disasters, mental illness, domestic violence, family breakdown and substance abuse problems as anywhere else, the society’s Canberra staff say.

Gary Crowder, a former US military policeman who took on the management of St Vincent de Paul’s Mitchell distribution centre four years ago, said for that reason it was vital the public supported events such as the weekend’s annual ”monster sale” as well as the 25 stores across the Canberra and Goulburn archdiocese.

The society hopes the event will raise more that the $30,000 from last year’s sale, but is still waiting on a final tally.

Mr Crowder said all the funds raised in the ACT, south coast and south-west regions stayed in the region to support a wide range of good works and family initiatives.

These include men’s shelters, women’s refuges, youth activities and regular night patrols on the streets of Canberra and Queanbeyan.

Primary functions range from home visits, where trained volunteers call on the needy and the vulnerable to offer food, clothing and other support, to providing clothes and furniture for individuals and families in sudden need.

”The people we help come from all walks of life,” Mr Crowder said. ”Nobody is immune to the effects of family breakdown, the loss of their home, mental illness or the like.”

Mr Crowder said community support for the sale, which started on Friday and concluded on Sunday had been as strong, if not stronger, than for the previous three he had helped to organise.

”You couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” he said. ”We would have had 75 to 80 volunteers involved over the three days and there is a lot of preparation beforehand as well.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society is on the front line when it comes to direct intervention and support for people facing an unexpected crisis.

It can trace its history back to 1833 when Frederic Ozanam, a French lawyer, author and professor, brought together a group of companions to assist some of the poorest citizens of Paris.

They named their organisation after Saint Vincent de Paul, a Catholic priest who had ministered to the poor until his death in 1660 and was canonised a saint in 1737. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society came to Australia in July 1881.

Mr Crowder said while the job was far removed from his work in the US military, he ”gets a lot of joy” out of helping people.

”At the end of the day all of us, the volunteers and the staff, are working to make things better for others,” he said.

”We are not here to make profits and buy our bosses new company cars. St Vincent de Paul puts roofs over people’s heads and clothes on their backs. It is Christian values in action.”

He said it was important for people wishing to donate items to the society to consider if what they were going to donate was suitable.

”Ask yourself if you are happy to wear it or use it; if that is the case then we are happy to take it. Donations have to be serviceable and presentable.”

A couple of exclusions that apply in the Canberra and Goulburn diocese due to occupational health and safety concerns are electrical good and mattresses.

People come to the sales and stores looking for a wide range of different things.

”Women’s clothes are always popular; books go down very well in Canberra and there is keen interest in DVDs and CDs,” Mr Crowder said. ”Records are also becoming popular again.”

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