St Vincent de Paul has served Dayton community for 70 years
By Beth Langefels
Nationwide, the ministry of St. Vincent de Paul serves as a first-line defense against homelessness. With a mission of providing Christ-inspired person-to-person assistance designed to improve the lives of those in personal, spiritual or material need, the ministry in Dayton serves more than 100,000 people annually, helping not only with housing but also by providing meals to those in need.
Michael Vanderburgh has been the executive director of the Dayton program for 10 months. Vanderburgh, an Oakwood resident, came to St. Vincent de Paul in Dayton with a nearly two-decade history of working for nonprofits.
“We were founded to engage in person-to-person accompaniment to anyone in need,” Vanderburgh says. “This is the hallmark of our work and believe that providing personal assistance rather than ‘counter service’ makes all the difference for our clients.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is membership based and relies on the 800 volunteer members to help it continue its programs and services.
“We have been operating emergency shelters in the local area for 30 years,” Vanderburgh says. “We house about 400 people each day between our two shelters.”
That number includes about 50-100 children who have been provided with emergency housing at the Gateway Shelter for Women and Families on Apple Street. The shelter for men is located on South Gettysburg Avenue and provides housing for single men.
“We have about 175 people living in our supportive housing program,” Vanderburgh says. “This program is focused on folks who are the most at risk of not having stable housing. They may suffer from serious mental illnesses or addictions and some are heads of households with children.”
Unlike many nonprofits, St. Vincent de Paul is not an event-driven organization. Instead, according to Vanderburgh, it works on developing relationships with both the volunteers and others in the community who want to support the ministry. He says that not hosting and planning events allows the organization to focus more on resources for the ministry.
“We currently have about 4,000 active supporters,” Vanderburgh says. “We absolutely depend on them to fund our mission.”
What many people do not realize about St. Vincent de Paul is that the organization has 135 staff members and 11 locations in Dayton. In addition to the housing program and shelters, St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantries provide more than 875,000 pounds of food annually and serve about 60,000 families. In addition, the organization also offers a furniture bank voucher program to help families transitioning out of homelessness and a community store offering affordable goods and clothing.
“Some of our locations are supportive housing,” Vanderburgh says. “Most people are only familiar with our emergency shelters and our thrift stores. Supportive housing is a great way to provide stability for people who would otherwise be in the emergency shelters.”
Supporting those who need permanent housing is a focus, since the shelters are designed to offer short-term assistance. St. Vincent de Paul pairs clients with full-time case managers who help them manage their day to day activities so they may maintain a stable home.
St. Vincent de Paul is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year by offering a free community picnic on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Transfiguration Center in West Milton. For more information visit stvincentdayton.org