Bill, a Vincentian volunteer, hands Katherine a food box as her mother, Sandra, fills out a form in the background.

A box of nourishment for hard times

Sandra and her family are thankful for the visits and food they receive from Vincentian volunteers

Sandra, 57, and her daughter, Katherine, 31, are originally from the East Coast, the border of West Virginia and Virginia to be exact. They arrived in Arizona just over a decade ago on a quest to reconnect with long lost family.  

Unfortunately, their family wasn’t inclined to reconnect and offered them no support when they got here. They quickly realized they were across the country with no support system and no way to get back.

Sandra and her daughter have scraped by since, but it has been extremely difficult. They are unable to work because of health conditions and mainly live off of only Sandra's Social Security Disability check. Katherine still works part time, earning money by cleaning. 

Together, they live in an old house just east of downtown and share a single minivan, which they use to transport themselves and Katherine’s two younger kids around. Unfortunately, their fathers haven’t stayed in the picture.

All of this means Sandra and Katherine's budget is extremely tight, which is why they are so thankful for SVdP and the food assistance its network of more than 80 community-based food pantries in central and northern Arizona makes possible. Each location operates out of local Catholic churches through the service of dedicated Vincentian volunteers.  

A Vincentian volunteer packs a food box at St. Matthew's parish SVdP food bank.

SVdP helps out by stocking much of the food in each of the pantries out of its Central Food Bank, as well as supporting the Vincentian volunteers in any way necessary through a centralized Vincentian Support Services on SVdP's main campus.

Sandra and Katherine are visited by the Vincentian volunteers at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in their neighborhood, who are more than happy to support families in the area through their myriad struggles. Recently, Elizabeth Rios and Bill Klink, two such Vincentians from St. Matthews, went to visit Sandra and Katherine and gave them a new food box to help them get through the end of the month.  

Bill hauled up two overflowing boxes full of both the essentials and goodies for the kids. For families, the St. Matthews Vincentians always try to give two boxes, usually containing useful items like canned fruits and veggies, pasta, sauce, bread, milk, eggs, and any meat that is on hand or donated. On average, a food box for a family of four can cost SVdP $50.

Two food boxes full of food.

“Some people are surprised at how much we give,” Elizabeth said. “But stop and think about how this is a whole family. One can of corn can is enough for two people. How long do you think the whole box is going to last?”

Because of the huge need, most Vincentian volunteers are only able to give a family one food delivery per month. It’s packed purposefully to help a family get to the end of the month rather than acting as a primary food source. Still, most who recieve them, including Sandra, are extremely grateful for the support.  

“St. Vincent de Paul has been really a blessing to us. Because of our fixed income, getting toward the end of the month, you start getting low on food,” Sandra said. “It helps out especially with feeding the grandkids.”  

Sandra and Katherine like to welcome the Vincentians inside. They often talk for a moment, the volunteers checking in on the family, and then they’re always happy to pray for them.  

Sandra is committed to not just sitting on this generosity, but spreading it and showing her grandchildren how to spread it.  

“If there's something in the food box that we don't use, we'll cook it up and make plates to pass out to the homeless, or we have our neighbors who need some groceries. So whatever we don't use, we pay it forward,” Sandra said. “So not only is SVdP a blessing to us, y'all a blessing to other people as well.”

Sandra and Katherine sit in their home with their pet dog.

Through all of their struggles, Sandra said that she’s had this feeling of judgment from other resource and service agencies about needing to ask for help. She said that was absent from her interactions with SVdP.

“A lot of people can't get out, and they don't know who to ask,” Sandra said. “If you need help, don't be ashamed to ask [St. Vincent de Paul]. They don't judge us for asking. If anything, they bless us.” 

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