By Jennifer Garofalo
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Uniontown has continued to serve clients, including those who have emergency needs created by the pandemic.
Operations Director Darren Scruggs said they’ve had difficulties over the past several months, but have continued to see to the organization’s simple mission of providing help and hope to those in need.
“We want to help people help themselves, but you can never plan an emergency,” Scruggs said. “If someone shows up at our door, we never turn anyone away.”
Among its emergency assistance programs is a food pantry.
“If somebody just lost their job, and they need to wait for government assistance, in the meantime, we will provide them with food and those types of things,” Scruggs said.
He noted that the pandemic exacerbated that need.
On Monday, the organization worked with Fayette County Community Action Agency to distribute 600 holiday meal boxes at the Uniontown Mall. Uniontown’s Roman Catholic churches provided half of the funds necessary for the distribution, Scruggs said.
St. Vincent de Paul also operates a thrift store, stocked with items donated to them.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For questions about assisting in any of those ways, call at 724-439-9188. Monetary donations can also be made through the website, stvincentdepauluniontown.org, or by mail at St. Vincent de Paul Society, P.O. Box 195, Uniontown, Pa., 15401.
Earlier this year, shutdowns closed the agency’s door for three months. Scruggs said that meant nothing was coming in by way of food, clothing or other donations.
“It has had an impact, but we’re getting back to the new normal,” he said.
Part of that “new normal” is having limited space to accept donations to the store because items must be quarantined for 72 hours before they can be put out for sale. That means donors who bring in items later in the day could be turned away, and instead of returning may take their items to another agency, Scruggs said.
The store opens at 10 a.m., and begins accepting donations at 11 a.m. Oftentimes, donation space is filled up within an hour, he said.
The St. Vincent de Paul store at 70 N. Mount Vernon Ave. used to be open Monday through Saturday, but is now open Tuesday through Friday. That, too, has had an impact.
“We’re not receiving the amount of revenue that we normally would (from purchases),” Scruggs said.
They’re struggling, too, with volunteers to keep operations running.
“We had almost 200 volunteers that come here, but after COVID, only 86 came back,” Scruggs said.
Volunteers collect, sort, price, clean and place donations, run the cash register and work in the food pantry, among other things.
He understands why, but hopes when virus case counts begin to go down, those who stopped coming will return.
“Our volunteers are basically the backbone and heart of this organization. Without our volunteers, we would not exist,” Scruggs said.
The organization is self-sustaining and doesn’t accept any government funding or grants. The thrift store proceeds go toward helping those who are in need.
St. Vincent de Paul continues to accept donations of items, food or monetary donations, and of volunteer help.
Jennifer Garofalo is the managing editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Readers may email her at [email protected].