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A Hummel Report Investigation

Taking Care of Their Neighbors

It is one of the oldest charitable organizations in the world. And here in Rhode Island, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul last year helped 120,000 people through food pantries, one-on-one assistance and direct financial aid that totaled nearly a million dollars. This month Jim Hummel introduces us to some of the non-profit organization’s volunteers - and to a woman who got a lifeline when she needed it the most.


``Those are going to go right in the bathroom, we have half a case there, so this will go under those….’’.
It is delivery day and Jim Carroll is playing both traffic cop and cheerleader at this food pantry in Greenville - as volunteers help unload and arrange thousands of pounds of items that in a matter of hours will be distributed to needy families in the Smithfield area.
Carroll has been volunteering since the pantry was founded 20 years ago by a chapter of the St. Vincent DePaul Society, a worldwide charitable organization that last year helped 120,000 Rhode Islanders, through pantries like these and direct financial aid of nearly a million dollars.
This food pantry, located in back of St. Philip Church in Greenville is one of 16 run by St. Vincent De Paul across the state.
Carroll: ``We weren’t exactly sure whether there was going to be a need or not 20 years ago.’’ 
That has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Eight years ago when the church built a separate building for the food pantry, it was serving 2,000 families a year. That number is up quadrupled to more than 8,000 this year.
Carroll: ``The stereotypical perception is that most of the people that come here are out of work, and they’re on the system and they’re just looking for free food. Their stereotypical thought about a food pantry is they’re going to get a can of beans, and a thing of pasta and people will hand them food they’ve preselected.’’
But here a volunteer is assigned to a client, who twice a month can walk through and choose what he or she needs. And it’s the volunteers that are key to making it all work.
Carroll: ``We have people that pick up at 10 o’clock at night on Tuesdays, we have people that volunteer and come in and unload trucks on Wednesday morning. We have people who will come and spend three or four hours helping clients select food on a Wednesday or Saturday morning.’’

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