Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
St. Vincent de Paul Society provides ‘critical contributions’ to the Spokane community
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Nov. 15, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Within the last year, Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society underwent a major reorganization, including the closing of its retail stores and a refocusing on direct service to the poor.
Mike Cain, 45, has been a member of the Society’s Board of Directors for three years and a member of the Society for about six years. He has now been elected the new president of the Society, a volunteer, three-year position.
Cain’s “day job,” however, is certainly not unrelated to the mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society: he is Program Coordinator for the House of Charity in Spokane, an agency of Catholic Charities.
“Things have changed radically for St. Vincent de Paul,” said Cain. “We went from a system based on sales at the stores to a donations-based method of business, meaning monetary donations from members of the community. The money will be used basically for two things: to feed and house the poor, which means providing them with monetary assistance that helps them pay for their utilities, their rent, food, etc. And then to pay for the necessary people to staff our facility.”
The St. Vincent de Paul food bank, at the corner of Trent and Regal in Spokane, survived the closure of the retail store and remains open for business. It is, in fact, the busiest of the several food bank locations in Spokane.
“We call that our Family Services Center,” said Cain. “That is not only the food bank, but that is where people can go to seek out financial assistance, as well. We provide all our assistance from that location.”
Continuing to provide these essential services is the Society’s focus, he said. “Our goal first of all is to raise enough money to survive. I have to point out that our survival is by no means assured.” Donations to the Society are being outpaced by costs, including staff salaries and financial assistance to clients. “We certainly need the assistance of people throughout the Spokane community – in the Catholic community and, obviously, people in other faith communities, as well, to help us to continue to feed the poor,” he said.
Beyond providing food, however, Cain emphasizes that the Society’s other services add up to helping people stay in their homes. “People who have a place to live,” Cain said, “are infinitely less of a burden to the community, and infinitely easier to take care of and to help sustain, than are people who are homeless and living on the street. In many cases, St. Vincent de Paul makes the difference in enabling people to pay their utilities, to keep their houses warm in the winter, and to pay their rent to keep them in housing.” Cain called this ministry “critical contributions to the community. It’s kind of an unsung dimension of the work that we do.”
The St. Vincent de Paul Society has efforts underway to get the word out to the wider Spokane community about the support the Society needs in order to carry on its works of charity. “There is an ad campaign that is putting ads in print media and on the radio,” Cain said, “and on television to a small extent. Our budget for advertising is limited, and so we need to use it judiciously, so it’s not like we have a media blitz going all the time.” A direct mail campaign also helps deliver the Society’s message to the broader community.
Cain emphasizes that the St. Vincent de Paul Society is an independent 501(c)(3) agency. “We get no support from Catholic Charities, we get no support from the Diocese of Spokane, we are completely independent, and we depend completely on the donations of our supporters in order to carry out our mission.”
Though the Society’s future is not assured, it is not without hope, said. Cain.
“The future of St. Vincent de Paul, and the future of the people we serve, depends upon the commitment and the generosity of people throughout the Spokane area, though particularly of the immediate Spokane community.”