St. Vincent de Paul Society offers support, mercy to those in need

October 25, 2016

Services Center renamed after The Marek Family. Herald file photo.

HOUSTON — To those involved in — or even aware of — the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), this Jubilee Year of Mercy speaks to the core values of a Vincentian.

Vincentian volunteers bring Christ to those in need by serving them with dignity and providing assistance with services that support the mission of the Society of SVdP. The Society works to enhance the quality of life for all people, helping them work toward living self-sufficient, dignified lives.

It does this with the help of generous donors and compassionate volunteers. Assistance may include food, clothing, furniture, rent, utility, transportation, medical, emotional and spiritual support.

On Sept. 22, the Gulf Freeway Services Center recognized its five-year anniversary with a reception to celebrate key relationship and donors with their ministry.

During the event, the facility was renamed “The Marek Family Vincentian Services Center,” thanks to the long-time and integral support of the Marek family in the mission of the Society of SVdP. 

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo reminded those in attendance that Pope Francis asked the “entire Church to go with him” through the Jubilee Doors of Mercy.

“Why would we do that? Because we ourselves have received such mercy,” he said. “For that reason, if the door of mercy is open to you there is only one thing to do … and that is open the door of mercy to others.”

SVdP is intrinsically linked to the Year of Mercy, in both mission and service, according to Cardinal DiNardo.

“Our Gospel is a living Gospel of fraternity and justice,” he said. “You really put together inseparably the love of the Gospel and fraternity and justice towards others, which means mercy.”

Citing the 60-plus SVdP conferences in Galveston-Houston, the cardinal applauded the emphasis of spirituality of its members in the “imperative” mission of giving help to the world.

“But if you do that but (the experience) is not hitting you back in the head and in the heart, and changing you spiritually, then you are only halfway there,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “The St. Vincent de Paul Society is a spirituality of communion — communion with other Vincentians, a communion in the Church, a communion in the love of the Lord. And it just flows out to constant care to the marginal people … the ones who need help.”

The services center is the hub of the Society of SVdP for the Archdiocese. It currently houses a resale shop (open to the public) and voucher ministry (furniture and clothing at no cost to those in need).

In 2015, the Society provided $357,000 in clothing assistance (700 individuals served with vouchers) and $175,000 in furniture assistance (300 vouchers or 1,000 people).

The SVDP Food Network — Food Pantry services provided $870,000 of services from the center with more than 11,000 people receiving food from the pantry.

Since the center opened in 2010, the location has seen an increase of services given to the Houston community:
• Clothing vouchers services at this location have increased 300 percent in the last 5 years.
• Furniture vouchers services have increased 20 percent.
• Sales in the resale shop have also tripled, showing that the community has a need for reasonably priced items. 
• Food fairs (giant fresh produce distribution) went from once per month to twice because the need is so great in the area.

The warehouse also allows SVdP to play a more active role in disaster assistance and gives the Society the flexibility to accept larger donations. The center is a distribution site for the Houston Food Bank in the event of disaster. SVDP is also participating in the National House in a Box furniture distribution program.

While the Society of SVdP has made great relationships in the community the past five years, there is no shortage of need in the area. SVdP is continuously looking for Vincentians and volunteers to help the society better live their mission of charity and meet the demand for services.
Annette H., a retired teacher, said she walked away impressed with the staff after visiting the resale shop on the Gulf Freeway.

“I went home and researched the impact of the store on the local community,” she said. “I was impressed and the next time I visited I asked if they needed volunteers and they said ‘Yes!’ Now I volunteer two days a week.”

Another retired teacher, Virginia B., has been volunteering at the SVdP thrift store for 15 years.

“I like to stay busy and I love to help people,” she said. “I find this volunteer work very rewarding.” 

Cardinal DiNardo applauded all of those active in SVdP’s mission of faith and service. “Please continue the beautiful work you do,” he said. “Never forget that the devotion of the heart is only expressed when it explodes and spills out into outreach (for those in) need.”

For more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visit