Two months ago, when the novel coronavirus forced us to shut the doors of St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center, it created a unique challenge: how would we continue to feed the vulnerable in our midst for whom there is no home to shelter-in-place? An article in The Bakersfield Californian by Ema Sasic, with accompanying photographs by Alex Horvath, heightened the community’s awareness to our plight ("St. Vincent de Paul Society seeking community donations to continue feeding homeless," March 24).
We were restricted to handing out sack breakfasts and lunches at our front gates, no longer able to prepare food in our industrial kitchen and feed upwards of 300 men, women and children who rely on two hot meals a day at our facility. Restaurants that regularly donated their leftovers had closed their kitchens.
Because the organization receives no federal, state or local funding, it relies solely on the revenue from our thrift store and our annual fall fundraiser. Forced to shutter the store, our situation was looking more dire with each passing day.
The response St. Vincent de Paul Center received to the newspaper coverage was nothing short of overwhelming. Within hours people showed up at our east Bakersfield facility with carloads of food, bread and sandwich fixings. The outpouring of financial and grocery support was a reminder that we are all in this together, and compassion and generosity are hallmarks of this community.
Things are going to get better. We will get through this, and eventually we will resume operations. We look forward to that day when we will be able to reopen our doors and restore some semblance of ‘normalcy’ for the people we serve.
In the meantime, on behalf of the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center Board of Directors and its volunteers, please accept our heartfelt appreciation for our community’s over-sized heart, enabling us to help the needy, albeit in a modified way for now. Our need is going to outlive this crisis, and others that may lurk around the corner. But for now, a grateful nonprofit thanks you, Bakersfield and Kern County!
Deborah Leary is chairwoman of the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center Board of Directors. Lisa Kimble is a monthly contributor to Bakersfield Life Magazine and a St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center volunteer.