St. Vincent de Paul volunteers versatile

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Offering an array of services, aid and programs geared toward helping those in the area who may be in need, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Uniontown has been the saving grace for many families and individuals in the Fay-West region for years.

“We are much more than just a thrift shop,” St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Roy Sarver said. “Our mission is to help and give hope to those in need in the area — and the need in the area is very great.”

St. Vincent de Paul offers services and programs that include energy assistance, emergency assistance, free blood-pressure screenings, on-the-job training, computer repair and assistance, and instructional opportunities — quilting, food preparation, hands-on upholstery training and beginning computer classes.

“I heard about the classes and I thought it would be easier than having my grandchildren try to teach me,” Pat Raymond of Farmington said, referring to the eight-week computer classes taught by Sister Ann Horvat. “I think that this is a great outreach that they offer.”

St. Vincent de Paul also has a food pantry.

“We have people come in daily for food,” Sarver said. “We try to keep our pantry stocked as much as we can. Unlike other food pantries that distribute food on a monthly basis, St. Vincent de Paul does so on an emergency basis due to unforeseen circumstances to people in need of food. Also unlike other food pantries, St. Vincent de Paul does not receive government surplus food or funds to provide food.”

In addition to the nonperishable food stocked in the pantry, volunteer Ken Marcinko of Uniontown goes to six grocery stores in the area nearly every morning to collect any packaged food that the stores might be disposing.

“They look for me,” Marcinko said of the stores that give the volunteer everything from packaged ready-made sandwiches to bakery goods. “I enjoy doing it. It's a way for me to help.”

Volunteers also disassemble appliances and electronics. The metals are extracted and then sold to help keep the facility functioning and the assistance programs running.

“The volunteers work to remove any metals that can be used from these electronics,” Sarver said. “It's very time-consuming, but they do a great job.”

Longtime volunteer Stella Abell of Uniontown is the in-house expert on the metal extraction. She knows a great deal about the different metals, taking extra time to make sure they are all correctly separated.

“This is time-consuming, and it takes a lot of work,” Abell said. “We don't waste anything.”

St. Vincent de Paul also helps the Fayette County Association for the Blind by collecting eyeglasses. The nonprofit also hosts the Hear Fayette Program that reaches out to the deaf and hearing-impaired from the area.

Sarver said volunteers are a big part of the operation, and he feels blessed to have such a group of dedicated individuals.

“I can't possible say enough about the volunteers that we have here,” Sarver said. “We have a wonderful group. I think they come not only because they are enjoying what they do here, but they also come because they meet a lot of people and they make a lot of friends, plus they know that they are helping others.”

Volunteers also repair computers; help in the thrift store to prepare items for sale; and provide on-the-job training.

They also meet with those who come to the facility needing help with emergency assistance, clothing and food. Volunteers also work with the weekly quilting group.

“If you want to volunteer with us, I guarantee you that we will find something for you,” Sarver said.

The thrift store is a big draw for the organization; funds raised are used for the upkeep of the building and the many different programs and sources of aid that St. Vincent de Paul offers.

“We have a nice selection of clothing and other items here in the store,” Sarver said. “Everything is clean and separated. I can honestly say that I think we have a little bit of everything here.”

Offering the clothing at a modest cost, the store allows for everyone to afford nice, clean clothing.

“Our prices are typically 75 percent less than the neighboring thrift stores,” Sarver said, adding that for those in need, the cost is nothing. “For those who have been stricken due to circumstances such as loss in fire or homelessness, we provide clothing, household goods and furniture for free. In the case of furniture, we will even deliver to them free of charge.”

Wanting to keep the facility running and the charitable operations going, Sarver said donations are always needed and greatly accepted.

“The community's donations enable us to generate funds for our charitable missions,” Sarver said. “If they are not sold after a period of time or are torn or stained, they are then picked up to be distributed in other parts of the nation and the world.”

For information on donations, aid or volunteer opportunities, contact the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at 724-439-4908.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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