St Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County helped more than 22,000 Contra Costa
residents in need during the Christmas season through on-going programs and in response to
The primary effort involved outreach by several hundred volunteers, bolstered by a
$50,000 anonymous grant given to the county SVdP council, which allocated most of the funds
to eight parish conferences that identified unusual needs in the season.
“This Christmas season the needs of the less fortunate seemed even greater than in past
years,” said Jim Noe, president of the Contra Costa SVdP. “The weak economy has left many of
our least fortunate neighbors struggling.”
“We saw a 25 per cent increase in the number of people who needed help just putting
food on their tables,” said Ray Saturno, President of the St. Jerome Conference in El Cerrito.
“We see a lot more families who are closer to the middle class as people lose their jobs,”
added Melanie Anguay, director of the Contra Costa society. “We helped as we could to bring
them through the season. Life does not stop because of the Holidays.”
When SVdP received the anonymous grant in November it asked its parish conferences
whether they had needs beyond their usual resources. Many of the local conferences were
already prepared to help those they found in need but some had identified additional people who
Funds were distributed to eight parish conferences to help with immediate needs that
were beyond their normal resources. Some conferences used the additional funds for heavier
clothing and blankets for the homeless on cold winter nights, gift cards for food, and small
Other conferences used the funds to meet exceptional family crises, including the
purchase of basic job tools. Others paid for car repairs for low income employed so that they
could get to their jobs. Another conference provided basic dental work for people without care.
Some examples of families SVdP helped this winter were:
A Concord couple who struggled to buy a few Christmas gifts for their two children. The
father holds a full time job in the South Bay but it only pays $10 an hour. To save on gas
money he often sleeps in his car at his job.
An El Cerrito woman on limited income was living independently in a studio apartment. Her
daughter and her three children had to move in with the mother when the daughter’s spouse
became too abusive for family safety. Five people jammed into the studio apartment was a
space crisis. SVdP and Catholic Charities paid for a two-bedroom apartment for them.
The father of a Walnut Creek family unexpectedly lost his job. SVdP provided a small grant
to give the couple and their seven children some stability for Christmas.The mother sings in
her church choir. “I suspect that the mother raised her voice more joyfully this Christmas,”
SVdP of Contra Costa runs a free dining room, a free medical clinic operated in
conjunction with the Rotary clubs, a winter day shelter, two thrift stores that also serve as a
source for free goods to some in need, job training, and other services. The 26 parish conferences
extend this outreach to their local communities, helping those in need in a wide range of ways.
Taken together, Contra Costa SVdP involves 800 volunteers helping 100,000 people each year.
SVdP was founded in 1833 in France. Today the Society is a network of charities in 147
countries with more than 750,000 members. In the United States, more than 140,000 volunteers
work through SVdP to help those in need.