With anywhere from 30 – 50 clients per day and only 400 square feet of space to provide financial assistance and food pantry services, the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVdP) at St. Timothy parish in Lady Lake designated the expansion of the church’s SVdP building as a top priority for St. Timothy’s Alive in Christ campaign.
The nearly $200,000 expansion was completed at the end of July and parishioners were invited to tour the building during an open house during the first weekend in September. “We are very fortunate that we have a pastor, Father Ed Waters, who is very supportive of St. Vincent de Paul,” said Charlie Ponitz, past president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Timothy.
Pictured: St. Timothy parishioners Charlie Ponitz (foreground) and Richard Trepanier restock the shelves of the food pantry of the St. Vincent de Paul Society building on the church’s property. The parish used Alive in Christ funds to expand their SVdP building and provide services to those in need.
Ponitz added that the parish takes up a second collection once a month to support St. Vincent de Paul. According to the national council’s website, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (or “Vincentians” ) are men and women who strive to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to individuals in need.
With the building expansion, St. Timothy’s SVdP space has nearly tripled in size to almost 1,200 square feet. Clients who come to SVdP for financial assistance can now have their intake sessions conducted in a private office instead of the front lobby area. SVdP volunteers also have a separate work room for meetings and data entry, and the food pantry area has been expanded to accommodate commercial refrigerators for perishable items, as well as two new freezers that were also purchased with Alive in Christ funds.
St. Timothy’s SVdP distributes items from the food pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and schedules appointments for financial assistance on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “The number of people that we see on any given day is about 30 -50 clients daily and about seven or eight years ago it was half that amount,” said Ponitz, who noted that there were usually about a dozen volunteers on hand to minister to their clients, and with the expansion SVdP can comfortably accommodate up to 20 volunteers in just the food pantry alone.
“The big reason for the expansion was that we were operating out of a third of the space that we needed,” said Ponitz. “Sometimes if we can store more food we can get better prices, especially from Second Harvest.”
Volunteers in the food pantry area also prepare small bags of food that are placed into the backpacks of 150 students from needy families at Fruitland Park Elementary School twice a month. Local families in the Villages, Lady Lake and the Fruitland Park area can also pick up bags of groceries up to two times a month.
“These bags are ready to go and we have people packing these bags every day,” said Tom McNaughton, another former president of St. Timothy’s SVdP. “The clients get two bags of groceries, bread and an allotment of meat depending on the size of the family.”
“The parish has a warm spot in their hearts for St. Vincent de Paul,” said Richard Trepanier, current president of St. Timothy’s SVdP Society. “They really care about us and what we’re doing.”